Selling your way into a great 2010

We are turning the corner! Get ready for 2010. It is going to be a good year for growth. Many companies struggled through 2009, and there were some who did well and grew. You can increase your sales even in this economy. Here are eight things you can do to get more sales in 2010.

1. More networking and better follow-up

Think you are doing enough networking? Can you do more? Are you networking in the right places? As my friend Kymberlee Simantel says, "Networking is not an activity, it is a frame of mind." Make sure you are getting out to the events where your ideal prospects may be. Utilize online networking. Talk to people at parties, sporting events, PTA, Rotary, everywhere. Build relationships. Make your networking count by doing the follow-up. Call people to meet for coffee, lunch, cocktails or an office visit. How many appointments should you set each week in order to meet enough people that you can do business with directly, partner with or become a referral source for? Learn about them and what you can do for them. This will lead to a stronger relationship. Use your network to help you when you need it, for introductions, ideas, referrals, etc. Try this the next time you are trying to meet someone from a certain company: Instead of cold calling them, put a note out to your network asking if anyone can introduce you to this person.

2. Partner

Now more than ever, find companies you can partner with. These can be companies who do the same thing (maybe even a competitor) or companies that do complementary things or have basic services that your clients need. If you do the same thing, is it possible to sub some work out to each other when one of you gets too busy or refer a client who needs the service but is just not a good fit personally? With complementary services, share lists of customers and see who you have in common. Work together to bring added value to those customers. Look at your lists together and think about who could use the other's service. Then strategize on a way to introduce that service and bring your partner in. You can share leads and make introductions informally or you can write an agreement that allows for commissions. Make a list of companies you know that you could partner with and schedule meetings to explore the possibilities.

3. Stay in touch with your customers

Really! Take your customer lists and clean them up. Make sure all of your information is current. Go back at least three years. There is a gold mine in your existing customer database. Remember that the easiest business you will ever get is more business from your existing customers. Make sure you have lots of valid reasons to be in touch with them frequently, with customer service being No. 1. When was the last time you called all of your customers to find out their level of satisfaction with their purchases? When was the last time you called to thank them for their business? When was the last time you asked them for a referral, sent them a tip, a newsletter and article with useful information? When was the last time you clipped an article about a customer and mailed it to them? Are you connected with all of your customers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or the social media of their choice? Stay in touch, be proactive. Don't wait for your customers to call you to tell you there is a problem. Call them to make sure everything is great.

4. Market, market, market

Did I say market? Why would anyone stop marketing in this economy? You need more business, not less, and it takes a lot more work to get the number of customers you need. This is not the time to cut the marketing budget. You need to market to your existing customers as well as your prospects and you need to keep growing your prospect list. Make a plan. If you don't have a marketing plan, it is time to make one. If you don't know how, seek help immediately. Look on line, read a book, outsource, ask a friend, work with a marketing coach. You need a written plan and someone at your company designated to execute it or outsource the execution. I hear so many of my clients say, "We have never had to market ourselves because we had enough business." This is so scary. Think about this: If they had that much business coming in without marketing, think of how wildly successful they could have been with that plus some marketing. As we are all keenly aware, the business has stopped rolling in. Now you have to go out and make it start rolling again. You can't do that without a marketing plan that generates leads. What are you going to do each day, week, month to keep the leads rolling in? You don't need a gigantic budget to have a good marketing plan. You can use social media, email, the phone, direct mail and events to stay in front of your customers with valuable information. And if you have the budget for it, radio and TV are a steal these days.

5. Get focused and plan

Plan like you have never planned before. You can't let things just happen in 2010, you need to make them happen. Business as usual will not get you the results you need. Sit down with your team, your friends, a coach, SCORE, SBA, SBDC or by yourself and plan. Think about what you want to accomplish in 2010. Write out those goals and the action steps needed to achieve them. Figure out what resources you are going to need. Figure out what you need to do each day, each week, each month to reach those goals. Plan your growth, plan your marketing, plan new product launches, plan your social media, plan events, make a networking plan. Just sit down and plan. Then keep the plan handy so you can review it. Block time on your calendar each week to do the things needed to reach your goals. Review your plan monthly and celebrate success and make the needed changes to stay on course or deliberately change course.

6. Use social media to youradvantage

Learn about social media and how it could benefit your company. Figure out which social media attracts your ideal prospects. You need a social media plan that fits into your marketing plan. It won't be long before every marketing plan will include social media as one of the media like radio, TV, print. How can social media complement what you are already doing for marketing, how can it enhance it? Can you do it yourself or do you need to find someone on your team who will do it? Do you need to hire a specialist or outsource it? There are some great people out there in our community who can help. Don't dismiss social media. It is here to stay, and it may be just what your company needs to establish relationships, deepen relationships and generate leads. Figure out how to share your expertise and become part of the conversation.

7. Innovate

What else can you offer your customers that they need? Is it a complementary product or service? Is it information, support? Survey your customers and find out what they wish your product could do or what service they wish you would provide? Brainstorm with your customers and your team and come up with something new. Change the way you do things, rearrange your departments, innovate your customer service. Can you add live chat to help support your customers? Do you need to write more white papers on how they can use your products? Can you come up with a new twist on an old product, turn it into an e-book, a video, a webinar? How about starting customer interest groups so your customers can communicate with one another and learn together and possibly innovate? Build a customer community so your customers can get to know each other and possibly do business together. Just imagine all the things you could possibly do. Most of it doesn't cost a lot of money. Take some time to innovate. Plan it into your schedule.

8. Energize your sales team

Ask them what they need to make 2010 their best year ever. You need an A Team. There is no room in this economy for salespeople who are not A players. Give them what they need training, coaching, encouragement, recognition, leads, support, accountability. Make sure you are or have the best sales manager on the planet. Work together to get the whole company thinking about sales. Reward any employee who finds a lead or brings in a sale. Keep your team charged up. Don't let the energy wane. Make sure you have a sales plan and that each salesperson has a plan and that they execute it. Discuss their plans with them often. Ask them constantly what you can do to help them close more sales and make sure you do it. Retain your best salespeople; don't lose them because you or your company makes their life difficult. Appreciate them and make sure they have the tools they need to do their job effectively. Hold them accountable. Most salespeople do best when they have the tools they need to do their job, the coaching they need to move sales forward and the accountability to keep them on track and show them when they have been successful.

Your company can have its best year ever if you follow these simple tips. Don't try to do all this alone. Ask for help. If you don't have a team, create one. There are tons of resources in this community to help you grow your business. You can start by calling your chamber of commerce, the small business development center at UNR, NCET or SCORE. Most of their resources are free. You can also hire a great business coach or consultant or join a group of business people who work together to grow their businesses like TAB or Vistage. So, no excuses.

Will your company grow in 2010?

Alice R. Heiman is president and chief sales officer of Alice Heiman LLC, a sales training company in Reno. Contact her at 852-5020 or


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