Acquisition is defined as actively gaining new customers or new orders. Understand this above all as a continuous work process that leads to success through a systematic approach. Luck and particular personality traits are not decisive.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How are customers contacted?
- What experience have I had so far in customer acquisition?
- What has worked so far?
- Which customers should be contacted?
- What is special about the product and how do I best communicate it to my customers?
- How many sales do I need per month for my target sales?
- How many potential customers do I have to contact on average for a sale and how many are there per day?
- How much time do I have to allow for this?
To prevent customers from going to competitors, it must be obvious to them what makes your product/service special.
Highlight the features that distinguish you from your competitors. These so-called “unique selling points” must be recorded systematically and very precisely. This is therefore the foundation of every enterprise.
What exactly do I offer and what use is it to my customers? The answer should not contain more than 1–2 sentences. Pay attention to the language and ensure the wording is as precise as possible. Then check to see if you feel that this description is understandable to outsiders and that you would like to work with yourself based on this definition.
Example: “I sell coffee and bread rolls at the bus stop. My customers save themselves the trip to the bakery and also bridge the waiting time for the bus.” Or: “Design, graphics and printing from a single source at a fixed price—saves you time, patience, and money.”
The more precisely a target group is defined, the better a service can be optimised for this target group.
If you remain imprecise here, you run the risk that in the end nobody will feel addressed by the business idea, because it suits everyone a bit but nobody completely. A precise determination of the target group is therefore the prerequisite for acquisition.
Ask yourself these additional questions:
- Who is actually interested in my product/service?
- What are the characteristics of these customers?
- Which customers would I like to deal with myself?
Define your target customers as precisely as possible. The aim of this step is the subsequent creation of an address database of potential desired or ideal customers who can benefit greatly from your services and with whom you would also like to work.
Tip: Think about which criteria are important for your customer and use them as a basis for the description of your desired customer.
Example: My target customers as a communications service provider: Small entrepreneurs with little time and money who know that they have weaknesses in their external appearance.
Starting from the ideal customer, a list with concrete addresses is now prepared.
The description of your target customer makes the targeted address search considerably easier for you. It is true that not all criteria that are important for you can be derived from generally available address sources. However, yellow pages, trade fairs or address publishers provide approaches for setting up your own customer database. Define the criteria that are important for you.
Additional address sources are newspapers, specialist publications, specialist publishers (e.g. Hoppenstedt, Creditreform, Dun & Bradstreet). The latter can often also be used online, but are all subject to a charge.
Tip: At the specialist publisher “Wer liefert was?”, company names can also be searched online by searching for products/services in 13 European countries (www.wlw.de).
It is imperative that you observe the data protection regulations. The requirements for the collection, storage and processing of personal data have become stricter, above all as a result of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force.
The first priority is the search for the right contact person. You can find them by making advance telephone calls to the head office (if not available, then to the person you can reach).
You are looking for the person in the company who
- has the (financial) means to place an order with you,
- has the authority or responsibility for placing an order and
- can assess the value of your product/service and thus the necessity for their company.
Tip: Avoid investing time and effort in a conversation with someone who does not have the means or the position to place an order with you!
Contacting potential customers
Professional contact is an important factor in the sales process. Prepare for this in a targeted manner and do not take a “scattergun approach”
Once you have found the right contact person, there are several ways to make contact:
- Write a letter/email and wait for an answer: However, the probability of success for a personal contact is far less than one percent.
- In order to improve the prospects, it is advisable to follow up by telephone or in person. The personal visit is especially useful if it can be done “on the side” when doing other trips. However, if it represents a significant additional expense, a telephone call is preferable from an economic point of view.
It is best to combine several strategies in order to increase the chances of success.
Example: In a short letter, you outline a suspected problem of your contact person and announce that you will call him a few days later to discuss this matter.
Define an exact number of desired customers, maintain these with recurring calls, periodic mailings (e.g. about news in the market, industry, personal anniversaries or simply with good wishes), invitations to in-house exhibitions, symposia or even sporadic visits. Meticulously document all contacts with your customers.
Tip: With “well-maintained” customers, you are close enough to their daily tasks and needs to be able to make a tailor-made offer if required. The customers are then highly unlikely to reject this. The more such customers you maintain, the more stable your business will be, even if every single customer orders from you only sporadically.
Especially at the beginning, it is important to establish the relationship with the customer, to be interested in their concerns, and also to find out whether you would actually like to work with them.
Most of the conversation with customers does not focus on the sales process or your product/service.
1. Identification of the contact person
Who is in charge of...?
When can this person be contacted?
2. Conversation guide
“Good morning/afternoon, I am calling from the company (name), we are a ... and focus on ... We will regularly send you information about our services. I’m getting in touch today to see to what extent my products are of interest to you..."
Wait for answer...
Until now, you have only made this phone call to find out whether you have found the right contact person at the right time. So make sure that you subtly ask whether your contact person meets the criteria of your desired customer and whether the time is right to make a decision.
After each conversation, check whether you have found out new facts and opinions. If your conversation does not leave you with more knowledge than before, you probably overwhelmed your customer (usually by talking too much about your own product/service).
If you discover during a phone call that you have caught the right contact person at the right time and that he/she is interested in further information, use this to arrange a personal appointment. This is a major step towards the successful completion of an acquisition. Even if it does not lead directly to an order there and then, it might in the future, because you now know the concerns and needs of this customer and can continue to maintain contact in order to make attractive offers when required.
Tip: In order to facilitate your own acquisition activities, it is best to work in blocks of time. Be sure to set aside time and space and create the framework conditions that make acquisitions easier for you to manage.
Acquiring new customers is a lengthy process that cannot be suspended and resumed at will. Customer acquisition must be an integral part of the ongoing work. Good time management is therefore particularly important so that acquisition is not pushed aside by day-to-day business, but runs alongside it.
Remember: The organised acquisition of new customers from the pool of desired customers must be done on an ongoing basis, even if the capacities for this cannot be created easily when the order situation is good.
Our customers are contacted as explained above under ‘Advertising’. We want to focus our advertising message entirely on the added value of more leisure time (e.g. poster: “A stressed-out banker comes home to his comfortably tidy apartment, the fridge is full and clean shirts hang in the wardrobe”). This aims to arouse the needs of the stressed single or childless couple.