Last month I attended a course at the City Rooms in the centre of Leicester. I parked in an NCP car park at the edge of the city and walked to the venue along a mixture of busy streets and pedestrianised shopping areas. Leicester is a vibrant, multi-cultural city and the people I passed were of all ages, shapes, colours and styles. I really enjoy walking through cities and watching what goes on. But I found it quite hard too.
Back in Coleorton, the rural village where I live, when I walk to the Post Office or go for a gentle jog around the lanes every person I encounter along the way returns my smile and bids me good morning. We exchange brief comments on the weather, the flowers, their dog, whatever. But walking through a sea of people in Leicester no-one returned my smile, looked me in the eye or said “hello”. I felt very isolated and a bit sad.
It’s understandable you don’t want to spend all your welcome and energy on people you haven’t met before and with whom you have nothing much in common.
The same with business. It’s much easier, more productive and more fun, to engage with people you already know. Standard sales practice is to concentrate efforts on existing customers where you are likely to get more business from less effort and cost. And you can extend your community a little further by keeping in touch with prospects who have made enquiries, signed up to your newsletter, visited your Facebook page, etc. Like my village community, keeping in touch is welcomed and you have something in common to talk about – their business challenges, the market and hopefully your products or services too.
So rather than spending a lot of effort and budget on cold-calling or wide, unfocussed advertising, try building a community of clients and interested people (don’t necessarily label them as prospects, it may take a while and their buying cycle might not be in step just yet) who you can send news about products, market updates and deals and expect a welcome, maybe a smile and perhaps eventually an order. And don’t forget that in a community you must listen as well. Answer enquiries promptly, take note of suggestions and respond to complaints (never quite so hard with people you know).
In any event, enjoy building your community, smile and have fun!