One of the most obvious reasons you should be building brick walls around your existing clients is to reduce the impact of aggressive competitor activity. While you are off flirting with seemingly more attractive and exciting new opportunities, your competitors will be targeting your “home base.”
The motivation to keep your clients should be strong. It now costs fifteen times – yes, fifteen times – as much to locate, qualify, and sell a new prospect as it does to keep an existing customer!
For you to appreciate the significance of that number, try and calculate the costs involved with all the pre-sales activity that you were involved in the last time you won a new client/customer and now subtract that from the gross margin you claimed on that deal. Substantial, eh? But it’s OK – your company probably absorbed those costs, and it didn’t affect your commission.
Here are three tips to start building those brick walls around your best customers:
First, I advise you to consider conducting regular formal account reviews with all of your most important customers – either face-to-face or, if that isn’t possible, via the phone. I suspect the very best performers already do this. It should be a non-sales event, which will allow you to discover what business might be forthcoming from each customer this year. It will also differentiate you, because this type of initiative is still, sadly, not common practice.
Second, when was the last time you asked your customers how often they would like you to contact them? And have you ever asked them their preferred method of communication? For example, do they prefer email, a personal visit, or communication over the telephone? Carry out a survey. You might just be surprised at the results.
Third, map out your most important customer’s organization chart, and then try to extend your area of influence. Why? Because most sales professionals tend to inhibit their influence in important accounts by making one or two strong contacts, and then believe they have it all sewn up. This is folly! Most decision-making units consist of many more than two people, so while you’re busy selling to one or two people who are already on your side, watch out for the politically astute competitor who is gradually covering all of the bases and find new entry points. You also want to defend against situations when your contact leaves the organization.
Please remember, the one term that sets top performers apart is “customer focus.” Between 68% and 80% of your orders will come from existing customers this year. If you look after them, nurture them, respect them, and constantly work to earn the right to their business, they will reciprocate appropriately. If you fail to do so, that 80% number may drop, and you will probably have to get good at prospecting.
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