Turn your customers into your sales force

Here are some simple ways to harness your happy customers’ goodwill to generate additional sales for your business.

One thing the recession has done is make us all a bit more cautious about what we buy and who we buy it from.  Over the last few years the power of the referral or recommendation has gained weight in people’s decision-making processes.  People frequently canvas the opinions of friends or colleagues. They check out website reviews and note what’s being said on social media about a specific product or service they’re considering buying.

Word-of-mouth marketing is something many businesses find difficult to manage in relation to other activities.  Many say it’s the best form of marketing as word-of-mouth can deliver some really good customers at a lower cost of sale than other channels.  These prospects come to your business ‘warmer’ from the recommendation they’ve received and, if you do a good sales job, are often easier to convert.

So how do you harness the goodwill and loyalty amongst your current customer base to generate more business.

Which customers do you want to clone?

In your customer base some will be more valuable than others.  Value may not necessarily relate to financial spend – it could be that:

  • The customer is influential in a certain sphere which you want to be visible to
  • They buy certain elements of your product/service range that have a higher profitability margin
  • They are from an industry sector you want to get more involved in
  • They are just plain nice, pay on time, don’t haggle and are enjoyable to work with

It’s these customers that you want to attract more of the same.  The good news is that your current ‘valuable’ customers probably associate with others just like them

Be worthy of the referral 

You obviously have to be worthy of a referral from one customer to another.  This means ensuring your product or service is good quality and delivers what it promises.  It also means the customer service wrapped around it is top notch and your customers perceive you as delivering value for money.  That doesn’t have to imply you’re cheap, rather your customers feel that your price/fee is justified by what you deliver and they’re happy to pay for it.

Good customer experiences tend to flow from 3 central pillars:

  • Responsiveness – how quickly you respond to the customer and deliver the product or solution they’re after
  • Communication – how well you interpret their requirements, communicate a solution and keep them posted if it will take a little while to deliver
  • Transparency – clear product/service quality and a no hidden extras prices/fees

If your customers feel you deliver on these counts then you can be confident in encouraging them to recommend you. If you don’t know how your customers feel, you need to ask them and (perhaps) fine-tune your offering to factor in their feedback.

One other piece of advice here – have a good website. The prospective customer will invariably check your website when they’ve received a recommendation.  Make sure your site is current, engaging and easily found on the major search engines.  Listen to the vocabulary and phrases that your happy customers use when they praise you and use these in your website content or on your social media pages.  These descriptions and benefits will resonate with potential customers that much more than any sales or marketing speak.

Don’t be shy

If you have a happy customer, grab the moment and ask if there’s anyone else they know who may need this sort of help or product.  Don’t leave it a while and then ask, strike whilst the experience is fresh in their memory.  Even if they don’t know anyone at that moment, the fact that you have asked will stay in their subconscious and when they do have a relevant friend or colleague they won’t hesitate to recommend you.

Also, if a customer can’t recommend any new customers to you but is complimentary about your business, encourage them to write a testimonial – either for your website, marketing literature and/or on any review sites relating to your sector.

Reward recommendations

Think of all the marketing and sales effort a word-of-mouth recommendation saves.   So consider giving the customer who has referred someone to you a reward.  The type of the reward depends very much on that customer’s interests and personality but it could range from something simple like a box of chocolates or bunch of flowers through to a discount off their next order with you, vouchers for your products/services or say a 3rd party experience (like cinema tickets).  It may be appropriate for you to involve them in some corporate hospitality or take them out to lunch.  Of course there may be some customers who won’t want a reward and you should respect their wishes.  Either way, you should always thank them in a note or phone call to show your appreciation.

And if your business is using social media as a marketing and customer loyalty tool, remember to acknowledge and thank any positive comments as quickly as possible.

Be worthy of the referral

A customer is putting their judgement into the spotlight by recommending you.  Let down the new customer they’ve recommended you to and you’re letting them down as well.  So be prompt in how you respond to this business lead.  Ensure you do an equally great job with the new customer and keep the referrer customer up to date on progress.  That doesn’t mean you should send daily step by step reports, rather from time to time let them know how things are going with the new customer they recommended.  You may find the referrer gives you valuable insight on how to handle this new customer and helps your learning curve with them.

Broaden their views on what you do

You may find that customers only use one of your many service/product offerings.  If this is the case try and broaden their understanding about your full provision.  Instead of bombarding them with e-newsletters, leaflets and brochures about your product range opt for ‘tasters’ instead.  Let them try a complementary sample of the product/service they haven’t yet experienced.  They are more likely to grasp its value by experiencing it, as opposed to having to read sales literature about it.  Consider special taster events or, (depending on your offering), send out samples or offer to deliver a specific element of the service by way of an example.


A large chunk of  business revenues comes from word-of-mouth recommendations.  Few business owners manage and plan these in the same way as they do other marketing channels.  So, perhaps it’s time to rethink how you are apportioning your marketing energies.  Can you generate more business from your existing customer base?  Can you turn your happy customers into your sales force?

Michelle Daniels

An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice. A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results. She has written (and ghostwritten) for many professional and business publications and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and professional services marketing group. Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy. Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth. Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans. We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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