Serving your current customers the way they should be served can be like digging in a vein of pure gold. You have a source of new business right in your file cabinets or on your computer’s hard drive.
It is expensive to find new prospects and convert them to customers. When times get hard, as they have been for the past three years, our natural inclination is to double our efforts to attract new customers. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is an additional way to bring in new business in hard times that is much cheaper.
Our files are loaded with people currently doing business with us, or who have done business with us in the past. Looking at those files should get you excited about the sales possibilities!
- Know us.
- Like us.
- Trust us.
- Have bought from us.
- Welcome our calls.
These customers would rather stay with you than take a risk on a new supplier, especially in uncertain economic times.
So, what’s your strategy for selling to existing customers? Here is what I suggest.
First, make sure your customers know that you appreciate them and value them. We can never say “thank you” too many times. You may be doing this now. If you are, continue, but step up your efforts. Remember, your customer is someone else’s prospect.
One of my clients sent letters to all of his customers thanking them for their business. He reminded them that some of their suppliers (his competitors) could be going out of business or slowing down because of the recession, but not my client.
He emphasized that his company had been around a long time, did quality work, always delivered on time, and was strong enough to ride out current economic hard times. He told his customers he had plenty of capacity for additional work and asked them to request additional quotations when they had needs.
The result: Orders are streaming in and 2011 sales are up 29% over last year’s.
Second, if you haven’t already, convert all of your customer contact information and buying history to a computer-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program. You don’t have to be a high-tech computer person to do this. You may need outside help setting it up, but your sales and office staff can be trained quickly to become effective. With my CRM, I now service as many contacts as a staff of three office people used to handle.
Third, set up a systematic plan to contact your customers and your former customers regularly. These CRM systems are not expensive and can put your sales and service contacts on auto-pilot. If you have a system now, make sure it is being used effectively. If you don’t have a CRM system now, make it a priority to get one up and running as quickly as you can.
Fourth, Contact your customers as often as you possibly can. During these contacts, do the following:
- Thank them for their business.
- Ask them if there are any unresolved problems of which you are not aware.
- If there is a problem, assume personal responsibility for resolving it, do it quickly, and follow up to make sure it stays fixed. Even if the responsibility for fixing the problem is in another department, follow up to make sure the problem was resolved. Do not hide behind the excuse of it being someone else’s responsibility. Make it your responsibility too.
- Ask: “How can I help you now?”
- Ask: “Who do you know that I may be able to help?”
If you make these contacts properly, you will come away with one of two things, possibly both:
- Additional business.
- A new prospect.
Selling can be a discouraging business, but I am always encouraged when I call on a satisfied customer. I especially like it when they tell me why they chose me over my competitor. This is valuable feedback, telling me what I did that was effective, so I can remember to do more of it.
Even small companies, or a one-person operation, you can multiply sales effectiveness with a CRM program.