The tough issue of fresh leads

Following up on leads.

You own a textile screen print shop. It could use more business. It’s a small shop in which you’re pretty much the chief cook and bottle washer, which means if you don’t find new business, new business will not be found. But you’re not a natural salesperson. Perhaps you’re an introvert and maybe you’re shy too and the thought of pounding the pavement making cold calls sounds like a fate worse than death. So what to do?

Well, first and foremost make sure that your work is technically excellent and that your customer service is brilliant. The combination of these two things serves as a defensive and offensive mechanism. It’s a defense against competitors poaching your customers and it’s an offensive measure if your good reputation spreads and new customers are drawn in by word of mouth. But you also need to promote proactively.

A recent article by Darren Rabie in Scott’s Directories contains some excellent advice for focussing on where to find new leads. For instance, unlike many business writers, he doesn’t insist that you must attend networking events. He recognizes that some people are not suited to this. He writes: “If you are not comfortable cold networking (talking to strangers), this is NOT a forum for you. Don’t waste your night eating veggie and dip in the corner.”

He also points out that while you may be comfortable on LinkedIn and other social media tools, don’t rely on them too much. People tend to spend way too much time on them for minimal results. You need to contact people directly because in the end “people still buy from people.” So find ways to do it comfortably.

Here are suggestions: ask your customers for referrals and then call them; consider exhibiting at trade shows and then follow up on the leads; diarize all leads and check in with them regularly; take the initiative and suggest promotional programs to your leads; and keep your shop in the lead’s mind by regularly feeding useful tips and information about T-shirts and what they can do to promote business.

These are just some alternatives to the dreaded cold call. Use them and others that work for you because doing nothing other than waiting for referrals will not be enough to grow your business to its full potential.