RyanC at Signal vs. Noise posted a terrific article (“Small Biz 101: Tips for Increasing Sales”) listing ideas for how small business owners can create and increase sales. The list is clear, thoughtful, and helpful — be sure to check out the comments as well.
For us at Big Big Design, our greatest sales tool has always been constant personal networking. I started working as a free-lance web designer in 2000, doing that part-time while I held down another job. My initial clients were friends and acquaintences I’d met through other activities: writing groups and workshops, the Gist Street Reading Series, the Butler Little Theatre, Geek Night in Pittsburgh.
Most of my business for the first few years can be traced back to two sites I built for free in 2000: a site to promote The Frantic Woman’s Guide to Life and a site for the Gist Street Reading Series. They’re simple sites — I’d design them differently today — but they were each effective for my clients.
Even today, I find new clients primarily through activities. At the bank, at the coffee shop, at a bar during happy hour: People do business with people they like and trust, so if you’re likeable and trustworthy (or at least can appear to be) you can find new sales opportunities anywhere.
Another tip I’d suggest for any small business owner is to be persistent in sales. Follow up on every lead, ask questions to discover what your prospects want, ask more questions if a propect says he’s not interested, and check in a few months later with anyone who turned you down. As my father used to say, “‘No’ is really a request for more information.”