When I was selling enterprise software to the Fortune 500, I used to follow the “five touch” rule. The idea was that when prospecting for new customers, I would reach out to a customer five times over a 2 week period. If I had not heard back from that prospect after the five “touches,” I would stop reaching out to them and try again in a few months.
The logic to this was pretty straightforward – studies show that most prospective customers need to be touched at least 3 times before they respond to a sales request. And if they don’t respond by the fifth touch, the likelihood of them responding is very low. Anecdotally, many people give up after just 1 or 2 touches, which means they miss out on some great opportunities, simply because they’re too lazy or too nervous about “bugging” somebody to truly make an impression.
Now that we’re spending time with local publishers and business owners, following this specific rule exactly the way we employed it for enterprise sales doesn’t make a ton of sense. However, there are several parallels I’ve noticed in applying this type of methodology to SMB sales as a way to engage customers.
- An ad is all I need to capture new customers – Many SMBs will place an ad in a local publication, typically with a promotion attached to it. The thinking is that people will see this ad and immediately bring new customers to that business. The reality is that this ad is nothing more than one of the “touches” we describe above. If a customer already knows you, then this is an “additive touch” and is likely to have a greater chance of having an effect. However, for a potential customer that doesn’t know you, this is just the first “touch,” and you likely need at least 2 more ways to touch that person before you will convert them into a customer.
- Why would I email my existing customers, they already know me – I hear this a lot. Comments such as “I don’t want to bug my customers too much, they’ll get mad” or “I don’t have time to email my customers, they know me and will come by when they need what I offer” are not the right attitudes to take when scouting for customers. It’s totally fine not to engage your existing customers, but you are likely missing out on the very best opportunity to make an impression on the people who have a much higher probability to visit you than the general population.Especially today, people have too many distractions on their time, and a lot of businesses are trying to put their business in front of your customers. The benefit you have is you don’t have to touch them nearly as much since they already know you – you’ve already made an impression on them before. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t touch them at all! Send out helpful tidbits or notes about upcoming events and promotions – something that makes them smile or laugh.
- Why should I ask people to review me or give me feedback online? – This is the best way to have your existing customers help you touch other potential customers! Why not get some sales help from the people that already know you? Think about a franchise operation – normally, the head office will do some marketing for you that’s more generic in nature, leaving you to do the specific marketing for your market/community. This is the same thing with two major benefits. First, it’s FREE. Second, it’s exactly the specific marketing you need, not generic. So, why not institute a 3-touch rule on feedback – where you ask your customers for feedback up to 3 times in an attempt to get more of them to respond?
Sales is a challenging aspect of any business, and many SMBs have it tougher than most. They are less likely to have dedicated sales people which means it’s usually the owner wearing multiple hats. But this skill – remembering to touch your customers and prospects multiple times – doesn’t require any great sales skill. It takes a little organization and determination and it will give you more opportunities and higher success reaching both new and existing customers.