Sales: Double Your Sales Without Adding A Single New Customer


When striving for new business growth, we often neglect the real secret to doubling our sales—the one that’s right in front of us.

It’s a well-known statistic that it’s five times more expensive to land a new client than it is to retain an existing one, but “retention” is about far more than just keeping a client. Client retention is about proving your worth and expanding your reach. When you can do this effectively, your fastest growth opportunity hides within your existing customer base.

To develop more business from existing customers, we need to become part-researcher and part-adventurer. In short, we need to slow down and spend time investigating our current clients. 

Create A Map

In the search for lost treasure, there is always a map. So, for every major client, you need to create a map. Mapping your current portfolio for gold is the path to seizing the treasure.

Start with your contacts. Take your top 10 customers and create an organization chart of their hierarchy: president, VP of marketing, VP of sales, VP of production, managers, etc. List these contacts by name and title. Remember, you are not just looking for your typical buyer of promotional products (marketing, for example), you are looking to provide solutions to problems and expand your reach within the organization.

Next, outline the relationships you have that lead to these new contacts. Remember that referrals are the No. 1 way to secure new opportunities, and referrals from your best customers are your shortcut. A referral from your buyer to someone else within the organization carries with it substantially more weight because you have earned the one thing that is the toughest to get: your buyer’s trust. Moreover, you are already an approved vendor within their system, making it easier for them to do business with you.

For each of your contacts, investigate what matters to them. What keeps them up at night? For example, for Susan, the VP of marketing, what matters most are questions like, “Am I going to hit my MQL (marketing for qualified leads) numbers for the quarter? Are we going to get enough traffic at our major event next month? Where will we allocate budget for our biggest return?” Susan’s world is inundated with stressed-filled objectives, departmental performance and her personal reputation.

Cultivate A Curious Mind

Become intensely curious about your clients’ businesses so you can become an expert and understand the problems they are trying to solve. Knowing your customers involves understanding their industry, their unique value and their position in the competitive landscape. Knowledge earns you the respect you’ll need to eventually get a seat at the table for a consultative conversation. Knowing your customers also gives you the strongest competitive advantage—no one else can enter into their world as you can, and no one else is more uniquely positioned to become a trusted advisor than you.

There is a wealth of knowledge available in blogs, articles and podcasts. If you spend the time following what is going on in your clients’ world, it opens endless new avenues for discussion. This, in turn, positions you as someone your clients enjoy having a conversation with rather than feeling they are simply being sold.

Another great tactic is to spend time with your customers in their native environments. Visit their offices, attend trade shows they attend and exhibit at and be a part of their industry events. Not only does this give you a far greater understanding of your customers’ world, again it positions you on an entirely different level than someone trying to sell them a pen.

You should be far more curious about your contacts and their problems than distributors typically are. We tend to be short-sighted, looking for low-hanging product sales rather than specific challenges we can help our clients overcome (which is where the bigger opportunities hide).

Follow The String

The third step to doubling your sales with existing clients is to “follow the string.”

Your customers lead you to new opportunities all the time by dropping a string of hints about future opportunities.

Example: The assistant to the vice president of sales calls you about their annual sales conference incentive gift and says, “… but this year we want to make it special because we set a new sales record.” She just dropped a hint, a string you should follow. If sales are up, what are the repercussions of that within the organization? Is the company now under pressure to hire more people? Have the current support functions been pushed to their limits in onboarding the new business, perhaps resulting in potential burnout and retention risks? Would acknowledging their hard work potentially avert those retention risks? Thinking through the possible implications opens up conversations with other departments like HR and customer service, with the potential to offer solutions to newfound problems.

Paying attention to why they are buying, and not just what they are buying, will uncover a host of new opportunities.

Lastly, to exponentially grow sales, your biggest opportunity often exists outside of your clients’ promotional products budgets. Discover it by encroaching on poorer performing advertising budgets.

PPAI’s studies have reported for years how promotional products are less expensive and more effective per impression than any other advertising media, but are you actively using this data with your clients?

Most of us process this news, nod in assent, maybe share it on social media, or, at best, share it anecdotally with customers, and then we move on to something else. Very few of us have sat down with our buyers to ask the hard questions: What is your budget for broadcast? Online advertising? Print? Mobile? How effective are these? What category do you struggle with the most? What category has the most potential, but the impact is still not being realized?

The opportunity to shift advertising spend from a poor-performing category (such as digital advertising) to superior forms of advertising (like promotional products) is where you can uncover more opportunities. To do this, simply reframe your role with your clients. Yes, you should be a reliable resource for creative ideas and custom solutions, but those are table stakes. To dramatically grow your sales, fight to get out from under the burden of always reacting and take the time to research your clients, expand your reach and amp up your listening skills to spot new opportunities and advise your clients on how best to spend their budgets.

When you think of all the energy and time required to land a new customer, it’s mind-blowing that we turn a blind eye to a much easier and more effective method to growing our own businesses: the treasure that’s right in front of us.   

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Catherine Graham is CEO of commonsku, an industry business management platform. She has been recognized as a PPB Best Boss and as an ASI Power 50 list honoree. commonsku has received two PPAI Pyramids and has twice been recognized on PPB’s list of Greatest Companies to Work For.

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