A Pandemic is No Time to Cut Back on Your Business Development

As manufacturers, we know that few things are as effective for your business development as a referral. It isn’t just an opportunity to earn new business, it’s also an acknowledgement that someone is so pleased with your work that they want to tell people about it. When someone gives you a referral, they are putting their reputation on the line—and that means a lot.

Cultivating good business relationships, the kind that lead to good referrals, takes some work, but it’s work that pays off! At Sirois, we recently received several orders from a customer who moved from one company to another. He was so pleased with our work that he recommended us to his new employer, and that takes a lot of trust. Providing excellent products and top-notch customer service are, of course, the best ways to earn customer loyalty, but you need to take steps to nurture those kinds of relationships, too.

Take the time to connect with your customers on LinkedIn so you can keep on top of company news and staff changes. Set aside 15 minutes a week in your calendar to reach out to your customers and prospects, either on LinkedIn, with a quick email or phone call. If you’ve maintained the relationship, it will be much easier to ask them for a referral or recommendation when the time comes. If you are looking for a specific testimonial, you can even offer to write a draft yourself. This makes it easier for the person you are asking, and you can include the specifics you want to cover. Then they can just edit it or approve it as they see fit.

You can also grow your business by investing in a direct sales program. We recently partnered with a group to assist with our business development, and in just a couple of months, we’ve seen amazing results. We’ve gained 5 new customers and added 19 new prospects to our database. Two new customers have placed more than one order. The longer we work with our business development partner, the more effective the plan becomes. We’re now quoting only the projects that make sense for us and that we have a good chance of winning.

Marketing, of course, is critical at times like these. It isn’t a time to put all your eggs in one basket; diversification is key! Until February of this year, aerospace was the primary market for a lot of manufacturers, but times have changed. If you’re in the business of PPE, you know how much this critical market has grown—certainly more than anyone could have anticipated. So think about how you can serve multiple industries and reach out to them. Emails, newsletters, industry associations—those all can help you get information out on a regular basis. Get a communication plan in place and start acting on it.

During a crisis like the one we’re facing today, it’s more important than ever to stay in touch with your prospects and clients and to invest in sales and strategic marketing. It’s the only way to stay ahead during challenging times.