It’s a common mistake many small business owners make when it comes to sales: focusing all of your attention on new customers…and forgetting that, actually, your strongest asset is your previous and existing customers.

And it doesn’t just happen in the sales arena either.

Whether you want to find a mentor, expand your influence, expose yourself to fresh ideas, or find advice on how to grow and improve your business, the answer might well be hidden in plain sight.

In fact, you might find the answer to all of these problems in a single place: your existing network.

So let’s look at just a few of the ways you can leverage the people who are already in your business orbit to increase your sales, grow your business, and find the much-needed support you’re looking for.

1. Don’t forget your friends and family.

This sounds incredibly obvious but you’d be surprised at just how many new (and not-so-new) business owners forget, or shy away from mentioning their business to their friends and family, particularly if they’re worried about coming off as “salesy” or becoming the person that talks about work…and little else.

But, it’s entirely possible that you’ve avoided the topic so ingeniously that your nearest and dearest aren’t entirely sure what it is you actually do. Sure, they know you’re self-employed now, but do they know what kind of clients you work with or how you serve them?

If they don’t, you could be missing out on a huge number of potential customers. Not necessarily because your aunt Jean is your next client, but because she’s good friends with someone else who might be.

So, why not take a little time over the next few days to talk to the people in your personal social network; remind them what your business is all about, and ask them if they know of anyone who could benefit from your products or services. You might be pleasantly surprised!

2. Get back in touch with your existing and previous customers.

As we’ve already mentioned, previous customers are an often-neglected but rich source of potential — for at least 3 reasons.

I. They’re your ideal customer.

Having already bought from you or used your services, they’ve proven that they fit your ideal customer profile.

Even if your business sells one-off or infrequent purchase products, they might be a perfect match for some of your other offerings. So, assuming you’re GDPR compliant, there’s absolutely no harm in getting in touch to let them know about the products and services that would complement their initial purchase.

II. They already love you.

If they enjoyed working with you or love what you’re creating, the chances are they’ll be more than happy to help you out by passing your details on to anyone in their own network that might benefit from the work you do.

However, don’t expect them to come up with that idea on their own; if you want referrals, you have to ask for them.

If the thought makes you uncomfortable, you could always sweeten the deal by offering an incentive like a referral bonus or money off their next order when one of their friends makes a purchase.

III. They can help you improve your business.

When it comes to making improvements to your business, there’s no need to second guess.

Ask your previous customers for feedback: what did they like, what weren’t they keen on, what would they change about your products or services, what would they like to see from you in the future?

Depending on how they answer you’ll get an enormous confidence boost, some valuable pointers for where to go next…or both.  Again, if you don’t feel comfortable asking for their help in this way you can encourage them to answer your questions by giving them a discount code or another incentive for taking part in your research.

3. Focus on quality over quantity.

When it comes to creating a network, it’s better to focus on the quality of your connections rather than the quantity.

So, whether you’re asking for connection referrals from your local networking group or from your existing contacts on LinkedIn, make it really clear what kind of people you’re hoping to connect with.

Because there’s no point gaining thousands of new connections if the majority of them don’t fit your ideal client profile.

Similarly, instead of focusing solely on new connections, think about how you could foster a deeper connection with the people already on your radar. Long-lasting, meaningful business relationships usually take time to develop so be prepared to put in the effort.

4. Remember that your network is a two-way thing.

Networking is a two-way thing so be careful about only popping into people’s inboxes when you need something from them.

When you’re getting to know people, spend just as much time thinking about how you could contribute to their success as to how they might eventually contribute to yours. If you’ve taken the time to get to know them, to listen to their worries, and to offer up your advice, they’ll be far more likely to reciprocate when you’re the one who needs help.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

It can be daunting to put yourself out there, particularly if you’re an introvert or if you’re still in the fairly early stages of your business and you don’t yet have the confidence that comes from having thousands of glowing customer reviews to back you up.

But whether you need to improve your sales, want to know how to uplevel your entrepreneurial skill set, or need advice about your marketing strategy or business finances, it’s likely that the ideas and inspiration you need are right there, in the contacts you’ve already made.

All you have to do is ask.

Running a small business can often feel like a lonely affair, particularly when you come up against a roadblock. But the people around you — your friends, your family, your former colleagues, and your fellow business owners — want to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to let them.

Clear Books is an award-winning online accounting software for small businesses. Thousands of business owners, contractors, freelancers and sole traders across the UK use our easy-to-use online accounting software to manage their business finances. All users benefit from the outstanding free telephone and email support. Clear Books was launched in London in 2008 and offers a free 30 day trial with free ongoing support and bank feeds. We’re rated as ‘Excellent’ on Trustpilot.

Get a free 30-day trial of Clear Books online accounting software here. 

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