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A Sales Strategy to Build Your Business and Serve More Clients

sales strategyGetting your first subscriber, publishing your first guest post, making your first offer – these are moments that every entrepreneur savors.

And rightly so – starting a successful business is hard work!

But after the initial success has faded, most entrepreneurs are left with a different problem. Now that they know what works, how do they grow their business without making more hours in the day? In other words, how do you create a sales strategy?

I’ve been in the business coaching world for two decades now, and if helping business owners grow has taught me anything it’s this: the only reliable way to sustain your growth is to build on the stable base of systems, team, and internal business controls.

Here are five of my favorite sales systems you can use to build your business and reduce its reliance on you as the owner.

Reactivation Offers

An easy sales strategy to put in place is reactivation offers. The idea behind this system is simple: Go back to old clients who haven’t bought a product or worked with you in a while, and give them a clear call to action to start buying from you again.  Simply gather up your past client list; determine the best outreach strategy to go back to them; craft what your offer will be; and lay out how you’ll track how well your offer garnered new business.

If you only have a small number of past clients (under 50), I suggest you pick up the phone or arrange to meet with them in person.  If the numbers are larger, consider email and direct mail, with your best “A” quality prospects also getting a phone call from you or someone on your team.

As you do outreach for the first time, keep track of what you’re doing, and how. If this process works, you can formalize it into a system so that it happens automatically and regularly in the future versus. This is much better than relying on your memory to remind you to actively do it again.

For example, imagine you owned an online health coaching business.  Over the prior 36 months you have worked with roughly 100 clients, of whom only 10 are still actively working with you or your team.  Those 90 past customers would be a perfect targeted group to regularly go back to with a crafted offer to start working with you again.

Remember, don’t overlook your former customers in your rush to generate more sales.  And because your business life is likely so hectic, systematize your reactivation system so you don’t forget to do it regularly!

Gateway Offers

Every business should have 1 or 2 initial offers for new clients that are designed to lead your new client into the best long term relationship.  With my business coaching clients, I call this sculpted initial offer your “Gateway Offer™”.

Your Gateway Offer is the offer that has the highest odds of leading a new client along the most profitable pathway with your company. It’s the first sale that leads to all the other sales.

Most businesses let random chance dictate the first sale. That’s sloppy – it’s bad for your business, and it’s also bad for your client. Instead, by strategizing and tracking your clients’ behavior, you can determine which offer you can make that will draw a new client onto the richest purchase offer pathway with your company.

For example, let’s look at Dominique Molina, a certified tax coach in San Diego, California. Dominique has an online community with several hundred CPAs who pay her a healthy monthly fee to access her online training and certification program.

Her first “sale” is actually a low cost (or at times free) webinar, during which she sells memberships to her website. Her website memberships are the perfect pathway should her clients choose to work more closely with her in the future.

What is your first sale that leads to all your other sales?  Note that your first sale may actually be a free or a low priced introduction to your company.

Don’t let random chance dictate what your first sale is – strategically map it out and emphasize this sale above all others to your new prospects.

Makeup Offers

The next time you have a client complaint or a canceled order, view this as a sales strategy opportunity rather than a lost bit of revenue. This is a prime chance for your company to make a profit and deepen a client relationship at the same time through the use of a makeup offer.

Here’s how it works. Joe calls in and complains about his order arriving late. In fact, he says he wants to return it. You have a special sales script to handle just these types of calls.

Joe, thank you for telling me about how we messed up. Forgive us for our mistake. I don’t blame you for wanting to cancel your order just to teach us a lesson. If I were you I’d have been even angrier and more upset than you are. May I make it up to you?

When Joe says yes, offer him some special gift such as a discount or certificate valid toward his next purchase, or even an added bonus item he wasn’t expecting.

The key is to try to both close this sale, and provide a reason for the customer to come back to you again and again. After all, the most expensive thing that could happen is that Joe cancels and never orders from you again, leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth. The best thing you can do is put Joe on the path to making his next purchase from you. That’s the power of a makeup offer that has been systematized for your team to use.

Unconsummated Transactions

An unconsummated transaction is any client interaction that started with the client ordering, but then the process got derailed before the transaction was completed. It could be that your client started signing up for a product or service on your website, but didn’t complete the sign up form. Or, it could be a phone order or email that didn’t go through.

The key is to have a formal process in place, ideally technology driven and automatic, to follow up with that client. For example, you could have your system automatically send an e-mail that says:

I’m writing to apologize that we dropped your web order earlier today. I want to personally take responsibility for this mistake and make it up to you.

Please call my office at 800-555-1212 and not only will I see to it that you get 10 percent off your order, but I have instructed my staff to have a special gift waiting to send to you. This is my way of letting you know how much I personally value you as a client.

Setting up a sales strategy or system to finish incomplete transactions may take a bit of creativity and technical know-how, but the results are well worth the effort.

Referral Systems

Do you have a formalized process to encourage satisfied clients to refer you more business? Do you have more than one system? If your answer is no to either of these questions, then you have a real opportunity to increase your sales and serve an even wider client audience.

To set up your referral system, start by looking at where your current referrals come from. Is there a way to super-size and formalize what you are already doing? Perhaps you could create a certificate you give to your current customers. The goal is motivate your clients to share this certificate with their friends or peers by offering  them a complimentary trial offer, a discount, or a special gift if they come into your store by a certain date.

Next, look at other businesses, especially outside your industry, to see if there are any formal referral systems they use that you could apply to build your business.  For example, one of our clients runs an online weight loss supplement website.  We suggested that they build a referral relationship with a diet cookbook website to cross-refer business.

At the very least, consider the following referral system I use inside my business coaching company, Maui Mastermind®. I call it the “The Referral Question.”  Here’s how it works:

Anytime a client gives your business a compliment, or says how much value they got from working with you, that should trigger you or your team member to ask the one memorized (and written) referral question you have.

In my case, my business’s referral question is,

“Thank you for that great compliment John.  May I ask, who are 2 other business owners you know who you think would really benefit from working as part of our business coaching program to grow their business and reduce its reliance on them the owner?

Then keep quiet and let them share 2 referrals.

This is both a simple and professional way to ask for referrals.  Try it in your business.  (By the way, over 30% of our business coaching clients come to our company as the result of a direct client referral.)

Ready to Systematize?

Building your business from the ground up is really hard, but it can also be a lot of fun. Your successes are hard-earned, and it’s great to revel in your triumph. But it’s also important to build systems in place to generate more sales, and to allow you to serve more people through your business.

What sales system have you implemented in your business? If you haven’t yet, which of the 5 options presented here most excites you? Let me know in the comments below!

About David Finkel

David Finkel is co-author of, SCALE: 7 Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, along with 11 other business books. He is also the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind®, one of the world's premier business coaching companies who helps businesses in the $1-20 million range build their companies to sell, scale, or own passively.

4 thoughts on “A Sales Strategy to Build Your Business and Serve More Clients

  1. Hi David,

    Brilliant. The referral system is pure gold.

    Fans know more people who’d be fans, or may know someone who knows someone. Word of mouth marketing is powerful and in most cases a most reliable form of connecting with repeat clients.

    Genuine fans/happy clients have a great idea of other folks who’d dig your work. It’s that simple. It’s why the system you note, where folks are programmed to hop on the referral opportunity immediately, is super smart.

    See the door open a bit and then, blow it wide open. Or at least gently open it up a bit more than a crack to see other prospering opportunities out there.

    I’d say the referral definitely excites me the most and I’ll be happy to use it more frequently when speaking to my freelance clients. Makes perfect sense.

    All the tips are golden.

    Thanks for sharing.


    • Ryan,

      Appreciate the kudo’s on the post. One thing your post sparked for me was your comment ” where folks are programmed to hop on the referral opportunity immediately, is super smart.”

      It really reinforces the need to proactively and SYSTEMATICALLY prompt clients for referrals vs just sitting back and waiting for them.

      And one more great way to do this is to have a system in place to THANK your clients who refer for each and every referral (and tell them the outcome). I noticed how I felt 10 feet tall when I read your glowing post, and that made me think of how powerful affirming/thanking your clients for referrals is after they have referred.

      Plus make sure they hear the end of the story–what happened with their referral? DId they come on board? Say no? they just want to know.



  2. David – so many awesome pieces of advice here – where does one start !

    When I first started my copywriting business for coaches, I went back to basics and interviewed over 25 coaches to get to know them. In return for their time, I gave them a review of the copy of their website and advised what they could do to improve.

    They all loved this part. I had no intention to sell my services, but for those that did enquire in detail, I’d ask for another call to move the relationship forward. The next call was inevitably about their copy directly, and I ‘d have a new paying client.

    Then of course I asked them for referrals !

    Awesome post.

    – Razwana

  3. Razwana,

    What a smart way to build relationships with your core target market. Not only did it generate business leads, but it must have been a great way to generate your early success stories / hone your system for the main service you provided.

    Well done.


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