Tips on keeping customers and getting some new ones.

Last month, I wrote about marketing and selling, and the importance of buying properly as a way to increase profits.

Now that you are buying right and your purchases are based on projected sales for the coming year, you had better develop some leads for your salespeople. Before you develop advertising promotions, you have to decide the type of customer you want, the area where this customer is located and the products you want to solicit. You have to develop a marketing plan for the products or services you sell. Too often, promotions are entered into without much thought as to results.

The area offering the greatest amount of future customers are your present and past customers. I have a friend who owns an HVAC and sheet metal business. The business is more than 50 years old and records from the very first customers sit in a cardboard box just outside the president's office.

Several years ago, I spoke to the owner about his use of this information in discovering "new" accounts. He made a statement that I have since heard many times: "I don't have the time nor money to get this information on a computer."

My answer is always: "It has to be cheaper than your Yellow Page advertisement and probably will yield more prospects because they know you already."

Hire some temporary help and convert all your old customers into a referral file. Make sure you find a software program that fits your needs and is easy to put in new data. Put all the information you have on an account, such as the age of all equipment, the age of the home, the type of equipment and the fuel it uses. Put everything you can in the file for future reference and special mailings. Think of all the old customers you have had in the past and the possible sales that could result if you could keep reminding these accounts of you and your business.

Every sales inquiry where a survey is made has all this information converted into the potential referral file. Remember that you have taken the time to gather much information and even if you don't get the job, you have very useful information for the future.

Another thing not normally done is working the area where you currently have a job. Either by phone or door to door, people in the area can see your trucks and know a neighbor has chosen you to do their job. There is a feeling of comfort with your presence.

It is understandable that there is confusion between marketing and selling. After all, the main purpose of marketing is to create sales opportunities. While selling is only one aspect of marketing, every function of marketing is to make the movement of products and services easier for the buyer to purchase at a profit to the seller.

Making sure that the marketing functions of a company are dealt with has to be carefully examined. There has to be a separation between sales and marketing. But the result of a successful marketing plan is profitable sales.

Marketing is more than defining a market and making surveys. It is the total involvement of company resources needed to make the company efficient and profitable.

(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone (800) 447-7355; fax (717) 698-6555.