Small Business

Jerry Osteryoung: Expand sales by going to your existing customers first

So many business owners think they must reach for new customers if they want to expand sales. But new customers require a lot of time and expense to acquire. A better way to grow sales is to go after your existing customers and fill their needs.

Existing customers are preferable for a few reasons, not the least of which is they have already shown their commitment to your business by buying your products or services. Existing customers trust you and already have a relationship with you. With new customers, you have to earn trust and develop a relationship, which takes time and money.

Your existing customer base is a gold mine. You just need to do some mining to find the nuggets.

I often ask entrepreneurs what percentage of their existing customer base would be interested if they offered a new product or service. Most say they think the majority would. Yet so many of them admit they do not focus their sales efforts on their existing customers, and none of them has a good answer as to why. Rather than upselling their existing customers, they continue to go after new ones.

Implementing a sales strategy targeting existing customers requires a marketing plan. The first step here is assessing the potential of these untapped sales.

To do this, you can send a simple survey out via SurveyMonkey or something similar to a random selection of your customers. The responses will give you an idea of which customers need or want your products or services, so you can have a rough approximation of the market size. Once you understand that, you can easily develop some goals and objectives.

It will be relatively easy to develop a specific sales strategy for reaching this untapped market. It will take some time and resources, but existing customers are the low-hanging fruit every business needs to harvest. I guarantee focusing on selling to your existing customers will produce sizable sales increases.

Now go out and develop a sales strategy targeting existing customers. You need a plan to be successful, of course, but I think you will be surprised to see how much you can glean from your existing customers.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant and Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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