How to find new customers

Written by Deena Waisberg

Here’s a stupid question: would you like to increase your customer base? (Told you so.) Then don’t waste time trying to sell to prospects who will never buy. Instead, try these out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for generating qualified leads:

Put your clients to work
Customer referrals might be the best source of qualified leads, because in hooking you up with a prospect, your current client is endorsing your product or service. But don’t simply ask for names; rather, encourage your customers to introduce your firm by phone or e-mail to their friends, then follow up with the prospects yourself, recommends Martin Wales, president of Toronto-based

Banish your booth
Instead of manning your own trade-show booth, get out and walk the floor. (Consider not buying a booth at all.) “Chat with the salespeople at other booths to learn about their companies and collect contact information,” says Tim Breithaupt, president of Spectrum Training Solutions Inc. in Calgary, and author of 10 Steps to Sales Success. “Then call the decision-makers later.”

Find a new Network
Because so many businesspeople attend functions only within their own industry, “you’re more likely to find competition than customers [at your industry’s events],” says Wales. Network at the functions of your target markets instead. (Event calendars are easily found on most association websites.) You can heighten your visibility at any gathering by donating a door prize, delivering a presentation or introducing a speaker (just be sure to say what your company does).

Make contests count
Contests always attract a crowd-but not always a good crowd. Make sure your prizes are directly connected to your business offering-say, free product or a consulting session-in order to attract qualified prospects and weed out all those people who’ll do anything for a free T-shirt. And never forget to capture as much information about contest participants as possible, so that you can follow up with the winners-and place a sales call to every loser.

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