Turn Your Customers Into a Sales Force For Your Product or ServiceBy: Ron Sathoff and Kevin Nunley
No matter how large or small your company is, you could benefit from more experts selling your product or service. Hiring and training an in-house sales force is much too expensive for many small businesses. Even larger firms that already have sizeable sales departments could use help finding prospects and turning them into paying customers.
The easiest and cheapest way to build your sales force is to give customers a chance to promote your products and services. Satisfied customers not only know all about what you sell, but because they have tried your product themselves, they have more credibility with prospects. A prospect believes when a past customers says "Yes, I used it and it works great." No ad or commercial can speak as powerfully.
Create A Simple Referral Program
Many customers will be delighted to tell friends about your product or service. You only have to ask. Say "I'm glad you got great results from our service. Please spread the word. I would really appreciate it if you told a few people you know who could also benefit from our service."
You can offer a discount to new customers referred by existing customers. One store has a sign in the waiting area "Tell a friend and you both save 10% on your next purchase. Ask for details."
Start Your Own Affiliate Program
Back when Amazon.com was first staring out, founder Jeff Bezos was at a party. A woman who had just gone through a divorce told Bezos she wished she could sell Amazon's books about divorce from her web site.
The wheels started turning inside Bezos' head. Back at the office he worked with his programming staff to create software to track sales that came from other people's web sites.
Today, affiliate systems like the one Amazon created are the number one marketing method on the Internet. Services like MyAffiliateProgram.com and SimpleAffiliate.com offer affordable systems that are easy to set up. Your customers can paste a bit of HTML code on their web pages, then any sale that comes from their site is credited to their account.
Commissions can be based on a percentage of the purchase, a set dollar amount, or a small fee for each person who clicks through to visit your site. Most often, firms offer a percentage of sale averaging around 20 percent. Kevin offers commissions up to $75 per sale at drnunley.com/affiliates.htm
Training Your Sales Force
A lot of web sites started big affiliate programs only to shut them down a few years later. Customers don't automatically get behind your affiliate program. Like any sales force, they need training and constant encouragement.
Your affiliates will need clear instructions on how to set up their affiliate links. Usually you can adapt these from the instructions you get from your affiliate system provider.
Show affiliates how to promote their site and your links. The most effective way to make sales is for affiliates to include their link at the bottom of all their email messages. Show members how to create a signature file in their email program.
Also take care to explain the difference between sending mail to someone you know and spamming strangers. More than a few affiliate programs have been derailed by members who spammed without understanding what they were doing wrong.
Develop Your Marketing Materials
Affiliate members will need a series of marketing materials from you. Have a professional writer create several sales letters members can use in autoresponders. Provide an email letter members can send when they are asked for more information. Also give members a page of web copy to put on their sites.
Make your customer sales force a priority. Plan your strategy, then work your plan consistently. Create a newsletter and publicly congratulate members who make sales. Share member success stories that could motivate other members to higher sales. Roll out new products, services, or improvements from time to time. They will give your members exciting new things to sell and keep your affiliates energized.
© Copyright 2001, Ron Sathoff and Kevin Nunley
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.