It’s never been more important for sales pros to look at what’s on their doorstep before stepping out onto the street, Doug Tucker says
The primary aim of most sales professionals is to drive new business but it’s a fact that many disregard new business opportunities available to them from existing customers – a fact that could be costing businesses millions in lost revenue every year.
It’s a shocking revelation and is down to a number of factors, not least the way sales pros are wired and the way sales departments are structured.
From the sales person’s perspective, there’s not only an adrenalin shot when a brand new customer is signed but there may also be incentives attached – a commission structure, for example, that favours this form of new business.
Equally, some sales departments are blatantly focused on brand new business and, in the worst examples, some organisations even have a department called After-Sales Service that is structurally separated from the main sales team.
In my experience, and in that of the savvy sales pro, new business is far more achievable from existing clients than it is from the hard slog of signing new customers, and there’s much more of it too. The trick is to maintain whatever got the customer on board in the first place throughout the life cycle of that business.
Let’s call it customer service.
Customer service – the negatives
It’s unfortunate that so many customers experience a drop-off in service once the initial contract is signed. One of many examples is where the managing director and sales director turn up to make the first sale only to find their account then shifted to a sales junior or after-sales department.
This practice, and others like it, lead to dissatisfaction and potentially early client defection. This is, as you can imagine, not very good for sales.
Customer service – the positives
Sales professionals are busy people and there’s always a need to drive new business from new customers and so it would be churlish of me to suggest that a sales person who’s gained new business should live in the pocket of that client forevermore.
However, the simple practice of keeping in touch with existing clients on a bi-weekly or monthly basis is often enough to ensure a continued and satisfactory customer relationship through which new business can be driven.
The great news is that this relationship can be achieved with a simple phone call or a short meeting – the critical factor being a continuity of contact even if during the remainder of the time the customer is serviced by different people from different departments or ranks.
Okay, that’s the bare minimum sales pros should do to start getting new business from existing customers but there’s a lot more. So how about we get emotional…
Customer service – the love-in
Gaining new business from an existing client requires the same emotional input as gaining new business from a new client. The goal is the love-in; the love relationship between customer and sales pro and vice versa.
The big question is – you’re in love with your customer but is the customer in love with you? Labouring the love theme (for which I make no apologies), all new business goes through a honeymoon period but the goal for getting new business from existing clients is to avoid an early divorce.
How do you do this? It’s all down to attitude – the psychology behind the sales. To highlight this, here are three key practises for better customer service.
1: Create, don’t fire fight
Most companies I observe have a reactive method of customer management – when something goes wrong they fix it. Fire fighting is hard, energy sapping work and is also counterproductive. Always anticipate, be creative. Surprise your customer.
2: Sell ethically, with integrity
Over-promising? Under-delivering? If you mis-manage sales everything will turn sour pretty quickly. Customer service succeeds through good, honest communication. Get this right and you’ll get new business from your existing clients. Get it wrong and your business with that customer will wither and die.
3: Gain clarity – know the terrain you’re in
Customer feedback, customer surveys, staff surveys, on-going research…are you 100 per cent informed on your customer? Do you ask what they would like to see and change and adapt to meet those needs? Existing customers’ needs change over time and the true sales pro will be reactive to that.
The fact is, in a global trading environment where new business has never been so hotly fought over, it’s never been more important for sales pros to look at what’s on their doorstep before stepping out onto the street.
By following a few simple rules for better customer service, as I’ve outlined here, I believe sales folk and sales departments can start to truly reap the new business rewards from the customers they already have.
Try it, and let me know how you succeed.