Tony Szak was looking for more than just a sales boost when he started his construction referral program in April 2010. In fact, the president and owner of Onalaska, Wis.-based Empire Development & Construction (EDC) needed a business framework that not only brought in new residential and commercial construction clients, but also motivated his entire staff — from office managers to field guides — to find new business.
But training employees to proactively look for new clients isn’t an easy process, especially if they are unfamiliar with sales and marketing.
From rewards-based referral programs to encouraging employees to get out and network, business owners can engage a full staff to promote their business and generate sales leads. Here are four tips to get your entire staff involved in pitching your business.
1. Create a Positioning Statement for Employees
In order for employees to market your business effectively, they first must be educated on what to communicate to their network. Todd Wiseman is a national sales manager for Oasis Integrated Services, a business solutions company in Tampa, Fla., that specializes in private management and outside services. He suggests developing a positioning statement that:
- Communicates your business relevance
- Captures attention
- Explains why customers should want to do business with you
“A good positioning statement also makes the person you're speaking with want to learn more about your company,” he says. “At the end of the positioning statement, the audience can redeliver easily remembered sound bites of company information to someone else.”
If everyone in the company is communicating the same statement, you can be confident that potential customers are getting the best information. “Employees feel an extra sense of pride when they know this special thing about the company they're working for,” Wiseman says. “It helps company morale, because employees are getting excited about what they're doing — that’s the key to success.”
2. Open Communication in the Workplace
Internal relationships are the foundation of achieving outside sales. Talking about job efficiency and how individuals can perform better can keep every employee in tune with company goals. “We want the entry-level laborer to know as much as the lead supervisor,” Szak says. “If the lead guy can’t make it that day, we still want the job and the business to move forward.”
Holding specialized marketing training sessions can get employees comfortable with marketing and sales, something they might not know about. Train your staff about the business side of operations because it’s an effective form of empowerment, says Matthew Harrington, performance strategy consultant at New Directions Consulting, Inc., an international business management and consulting firm in Bennington, Vt. “Build a hands-on strategy of how your employees can most effectively do these [marketing] tasks,” he says.
To empower employees, it’s important to first focus on their involvement and engagement to build up their competency, he says. “Employees will only become powerful, internal marketers if they feel competent and committed to the strategy,” Harrington says.
3. Develop a Structured Referral Program
Szak found success in a referral program that encompasses both employees and clients. When someone refers EDC for commercial or residential work, Szak offers a $50 gift card to one of two local restaurants or a bakery. These restaurants are also past clients of EDC, so Szak is able to send potential customers to see the company’s work while redeeming a free meal. “The power of referral is huge,” he says.
And customers aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of the program. Through weekly meetings with staff, Szak encourages every employee to look for potential clients for specific projects. “If someone helps bring in a new client, they get praised at morning meetings in front of the whole staff,” he says. “Other employees see how great it is, so they are inclined to try harder. Wiseman agrees that a successful referral program offers compensation. “Whether it’s a prize, bonus or extra vacation days, you need to have something employees can earn for their efforts,” he says.
4. Leverage and Build Your Employees’ Networks
With profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, Szak has found creative ways to leverage his employees’ social media networks. When posting updates or photos to the company’s Facebook page, Szak includes a link to the EDC website and tags individual employees in pictures. “Not only are my friends seeing the posts,” Szak says, “but people are also seeing it on my employees’ pages.”
In addition to social media, encouraging employees to join industry associations is a great way to cultivate solid, face-to-face relationships. For example, EDC has both office and construction managers involved in a local builders association. “Join an area association or get employees involved in business networking groups,” Szak says. “It doesn’t happen over night, but you need to build trust with people before they will start referring you.”
Employees are more likely to seek out new business when they feel like a respected asset to your company. Getting everyone involved in business pitches is essential to the growth of your business and the enrichment of your most fundamental asset — your staff.
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