10 ways to acquire new clients (or sell to old ones)

Every business, regardless of what market it competes in, boils down to one thing: selling. If you can't make sales, your business is already dead. Might as well declare bankruptcy right now.

Sane Strategy doesn't want you to fail. In fact, we want you to succeed without even trying. The best kind of business is one that is self-sustaining. Let the money come to you, while you finish mowing the yard for your wife or watch football with your friends.

Here's a list of 10 different ways to acquire new clients (or sell to old ones) without having to break a sweat. If you can check these off your list, you can concentrate on what's most important. Sleep.

1. Get a decent business card. If you can't design one, make sure you hire someone who can. Often times you'll be at the bar or even at a meet-and-greet, perfect occasions to drop off a card. Don't let the first impression of your company be a bad one.

2. Build a Web site for your company, or better yet, let us build one for you. A home on the Internet gives any business more legitimacy. Not only that, but it increases your market as far as you'd like to make it. Sales generated by Google search users are easy, efficient, and make your job that much easier.

3. While we're talking about your Web site, make sure to create a form exclusively for proposal requests and link it on your front page. Don't make potential clients search around your site to find information on how to give you money. Let them act first, and get your sales team involved early. Most visitors will spend only five seconds at your Web site; get their attention before you lose the opportunity.

4. Redundancy and consistency. This might seem like a no brainer, but many companies fall into the trap of wanting to go 10 different ways on 10 different issues. Make sure your business is sending one static message throughout your branding, marketing, customer service, and sales. This can be as simple as making sure your business card design matches your Web site, or creating a motto or slogan that you use on everything. You're building an identity.

5. Redundancy and consistency. Can't stress this enough. If a potential client sees a rainbow of marketing materials, none of which match one another, they will be immediately turned off by your lack of attention to detail. Match your materials so well that the person viewing them notices their content, not their basic layout elements.

6. Don't follow every new trend, especially if it says it's Web 2.0. People are going to ask you "Do you have a Facebook page?" "Do you use Twitter?" "Are you 100 percent eco-friendly!?!" The question you need to ask yourself, "Is the time I'm spending doing these new trends making me more money than if I was cold calling potential clients?" If the answer is "no," then what the hell are you thinking? Bottom line, while a few of these things can be fresh and make your company more youthful, they soon snowball out of control and you waste more time that you could be using to get real results.

7. Believe it or not, marketing is important. Small businesses should be spending between seven to eight percent of their gross sales in marketing. That money should not only be going into prospect and client communications, but also perfecting the methods in which you're communicating. For example, do you have an easy method to track ROI? Can you easily and quickly update your company Web site? Do you have a sure-fire method to collect leads? These things don't have to be solved all at once, but they need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Make sure you invest in your own business, that is, unless you don't like growth. But we know you do.

8. Simplicity is key. Don't confuse your prospects with too much information. People tend to provide way more than is necessary. This causes problems in several ways. The message is often lost on potential clients, you lose sight of your own goals, and often you're serving up your business strategy to competitors -- who are very happy to take your ideas for their own profit. If you're selling something specific, let the customer know. Put a big picture of your product on your documentation. Have a nice one-sentence tagline to summarize the whole thing. However, leave some work for your sales guys. A phone call about specifics is much more likely to produce a sale than a document that can be thrown away and forgotten.

9. Know your competition better than they do. Finding out more about your competitors gives you an immediate advantage. While we, the smart business, are keeping all our cards to our chest, there's a good chance that one or several competitors are letting it all hang out. Take notes on what they provide, what they're doing better than you, what they're not doing, and what audience they're aiming for. Start a checklist of things to improve, then get to work. You might decide to invest in Google ads that show up when someone types your competitor's name. You might offer new services based on what everyone else is doing. You might even find out you're charging way too much or not enough for the services you provide. You might decide to change nothing, after all, you were probably the perfect business model all along. But aren't you glad you checked?

10. Take weekends off, and if your busy days are the weekends, take specific weekdays off. While some people can work 24/7 and produce results, the rest of us are human. Not only will you increase focus, you won't burn out as quickly as those Wall Street junkies. Keep in mind that business is a marathon, not a sprint. Presume you will be working until the grand old age of 75, but aim for somewhere around 45. Goal setting isn't just about getting work done, but also knowing when it's time to relax.