Selling To Small Business

Selling To Small Business - Strategies to help you sell to small business entrepreneurs

Monday, February 11, 2008

Referral Marketing: The Best Way to Find Small Business Clients

Guest Contributor: Albert Luk
Albert's Posts - Albert's Site


Happy New Year! I hope 2008 will be a healthy and fruitful year for you.

Before the holiday, I started getting a lot of cold calls- from investment advisors, equipment providers and software providers. I did not return any of their calls. Why? I did not know any of them nor was I inclined to start a business relationship in an extremely busy period of time for me, both personally and professionally.

I do not believe I am alone in this thinking; we already have multiple priorities during the holiday season. Simple practicality dictates we would not have an opportunity to return a call from someone we don't know. The morale of the story being sometimes doing less is more. If you are targeting new small business clients, best to wait until they have some time to return your call.

However, on a much larger contextual basis, these calls got me to thinking- does cold calling even work anymore? A 2005 Small Biz Trends survey appears to confirm what most sales/marketing professionals know: cold calling continues to be in the arsenal of small business marketing tools but it is relatively ineffective compared to referral marketing. In fact, the survey finds that referral marketing is over 100% more effective than cold calling.

This leads to the obvious question- why do people still cold call as a means to selling to small business? I would argue that perhaps, counter-intuitively, cold calling is "comfortable" compared to referral marketing. I use the term "comfortable" in a relative sense. Cold calling is an extremely difficult sales strategy. The process is rife with voice mails, gate-keepers and rejection.

Having said that, cold calling is "comfortable" in the sense one doesn’t have to leave the familiar surroundings of the office, fight traffic to make appointments or develop the patience to listen to truly listen to your potentials in a face-to-face meeting. Cold calling is, in many respects, a one way conversation- one pitches off a script with a call to action to arrange some type of appointment. The sales person is in the dominant or control position once contact is made. Dominance or control can be extremely comfortable positions for all of us.

Conversely, referral marketing can be viewed by some as being out of comfortable zone- some meetings are in distant locations, the agenda may not be as structured as a scripted call and there are the inevitable "moving parts" to a face-to- face referral marketing strategy (last minute cancellations, time changes, traffic, emergencies etc. etc.). Referral marketing can be more difficult than cold calling.

If there is one piece of advice one can take from this post it is GET OUT THERE. Get out of the office. Get off the phone. Get out of comfort zone. Initiate a strategy to put yourself in the face of your desired small business clients in 2008.

Next month I will address a related topic- building a connector network to maximize the benefits of referral marketing.

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