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Recession: A Great Time for Sales Growth

Written by  Dick Ollek, CBSE

“Dick , are you feeling okay? We’re in a recession. Sales are down; we’re struggling to stay afloat.” I submit to you that now is the best time to grow your business because you can take the time to really focus on the accounts you want to do business with. Let me give you two ways that I have found to be extremely effective during economic downturns.

Weekly Targeted Mailings

If you have a limited advertising budget— and who doesn’t?—this is an extremely effective way to reach your target audience. It is actually a combination direct mail/telemarketing approach without the negative baggage associated with either one of them.

In short, this is a program of sending a designated number—usually 40 or 50— information packets to your prospects each Friday and then calling them Wednesday or Thursday of the next week to ask for a 20-minute appointment to review the information with them.

What information should go in the packet? Talk about the real things that make your company unique, such as a verifiable training program, customer call center, regular customer-partnering meetings, certified technicians, etc. Just telling someone you have been in business for 30 years doesn’t carry much weight in this day and age. Do you have 30 years of experience or one year, 29 times over? What really sets you apart? Prospects want something different than the old “trained personnel” phrase that is overused and underdeserved.

Include pictures of your key staff, and tell prospects about their years of service to you and/or the industry. Highlight the individuals who would be responsible for their account. If that person is you, then say so, and espouse the advantages of your personal attention to their account.

I recommend you develop a file-type presentation folder and place the information in the folder with a cut on it, just like a regular file folder would have—only this cut would have the name of your company on it. I suggest this because a standard response from most subjects is, “I will put your information in the file with the rest of the information I have from contract cleaners.”

If we provide the file for them, when they get ready to go to the file for the information, your folder will be the folder they reach for. It’s also important to include a business card and self-addressed, postage-guaranteed business reply card. Remember, we want to make it as easy as possible for the suspect to buy.

Another important point to remember is that by placing the mailing in a 9 x 12-inch envelope, the chances are much greater it will get to the recipient than with a regular envelope.

Key points to remember on this method of selling include:

• Be consistent in your mailing. Mail them every week.

• Do not fail to call the following Wednesday or Thursday no matter what “fires” need to be put out at the time, and ask for a 20-minute appointment.

• When you arrive at that 20-minute appointment, take your watch off and lay it on the table or desk and remind the prospect (notice it is no longer a subject) you asked for 20 minutes and you will not overstay that time unless they request you to do so. In all the years I have used this approach, I only had one prospect tell me my time was up.

• Ask for the opportunity to present a proposal (not bid).

• Be on time.

Hit List Mailings

These are periodic mailings done at scheduled times throughout the year to your top prospects, generally items you select that are in the $6-15 range and are usually compatible with a specific time of year such as Valentine’s Day, NCAA March Madness, April 15 tax deadline, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc.

One mailing that was very successful for us was a miniature metal trash can that stood six inches high, had our company logo on one side and a real lid just like a metal trash can.

Inside the trash can we placed, along with a business card and a business reply card, a crumpled 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper with our logo and the words, “Feeling down in the dumps(ter)? Do your current cleaners miss trash cans and other tasks and then give you a bunch of garbage excuses? At our company, we don’t sit on our can. Call us or return the postage-paid reply card or visit our Web site.”

Another effective mailing was a quality, usable umbrella with our company logo produced in our company colors. Included in the attractive mailing sleeve was a large postcard that read: “Getting showered with complaints about your contract service provider? If you’re tired of them raining on your parade, call our company. We’ll bundle all of your contract services under one umbrella, manage the entire program, and provide one monthly invoice to cover all the services. Contact us today. We’ll rain relief for you.”

Some helpful hints when doing such mailings:

• Always call within three days after the mailing and ask for an appointment.

• Always include business cards and postage-paid reply cards.

• If items you are sending require batteries, include the batteries!

• Always be on time with the mailers. A March delivery of a Valentine’s Day mailer will do more damage than good.

• Don’t offend people with what you send.

Our company used these two methods of securing customers whether the economy was bad or good. We used them because they worked. The key to success in both of these programs is doing them consistently and continuing to follow up.

During times when the economy is less than stellar, it is important to differentiate yourself from other companies. Either of these processes with do just that.

Happy selling!

Dick Ollek, CBSE, is the author of the books Selling Contract Cleaning Services 101 and Finding, Training, and Keeping, GREAT Service Employees 101. He can be heard on a weekly podcast at www.tripodcast.com and is a senior partner of Consultants In Cleaning, LLC, Camdenton, MO. He can be reached at (573) 873-9500 or www.consultantsincleaning.com.

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