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New Biz from Old Clients

Three Proactive Ways to Help Cultivate New Customers
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Three Proactive Ways to Help Cultivate New Customers

“Dennis, what’s going on? It’s been a while,” I said as I answered the phone.

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Mike “Sparky” Detmer (mdetmer@nilesaudio.com) is president of Niles Audio

“Oh, just stuck on the freeway. I heard about your promotion and wanted to say congratulations before my 10:30 appointment with an architect,” replied Dennis Schlossberg, the owner of Definitive Audio, in Bellevue, Washington.

“An architect! Is anyone building houses anymore?” I asked knowing the answer.

“Not many. You probably know the stats better than I do,” Dennis said. “But I’ve got a number of jobs going in spite of it all,” he offered proudly.

I then asked my friend for his secret to keeping work flowing in this market, knowing that I owed Jeremy at Residential Systems an article the following week. Dennis didn’t hesitate in his response: “Tell your readers that my old clients saved my condo! If I didn’t use my ‘book’ [that ’s Dennis-talk for his client list], I’d be eating cat food,” he joked.

Knowing that that’s easier said than done, I asked Dennis to walk me through a few techniques he’d used to make going back to existing clients a successful endeavor. Here are the three things that he suggested integrators should do to garner business from an old or current client list:

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Dennis Schlossberg, the owner of Definitive Audio, in Bellevue, Washington, sets up appointments in his Outlook calendar to remind him to call every architect, interior designer, and landscape architect he knows on a quarterly basis.

1 Embrace a sales strategy that reengages the architects, interior designers, and landscape architects that you have worked with in the past or those that you know of. This is an important group influencers and getting in front of them regularly is key to acquiring more job referrals from them. Ever since the slump in the building market began, architects, interior designers, and landscape architects have seen their custom installation partners going out of business. So calling on a routine basis reminds them that you are still a strong resource that they can count on.

To do this Dennis sets up appointments in his Outlook calendar to remind him to call every architect, interior designer, and landscape architect he knows on a quarterly basis. If you are not familiar with this technique you can learn more from Turner Time Management (see sidebox).

Dennis advises you to be casual. “You’re just calling to check in,” he said. That way you don’t seem desperate or out of place. Ask about jobs that are currently under contract or just coming up and talk a little about jobs you just completed that might be interesting.

2 Check back with your commercial customers. Dennis told me of a sports bar that he specified two years ago. Since that time their business has grown significantly. And when he stopped by to see how things were going, the owner commissioned him to add several new monitors in the bar area and extra speakers on the patio. “It wasn’t a bunch, but it was a quick and profitable job,” he told me.

3 Ask past clients for referrals. Dennis recently sent e-mail messages to previous clients asking for their recommendation and received several referrals back that panned out. The idea of using e-mail makes it easy for the recipient to reply or forward the message to a friend or relative who could use your services.

Small businesses–and large businesses, for that matter–often spend unnecessary amounts of money and resources trying to acquire new customers. While keeping the potential sales pipeline full with the next big client is always important, you shouldn’t forget to look at your existing clientele. After all, you’ve already sold them on your company once.

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