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: Whilst you are off flirting with seemingly more attractive and exciting new opportunities, your competitors will be targeting your “home base”
The motivation to do this should be strong. To begin with, it now costs fifteen times – yes, that’s what I said, fifteen times – as much to locate, qualify and sell to a new prospect as it does an existing customer.
In order 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… significant eh! But it’s OK, your company probably absorbed those costs and it didn’t affect your commission?
So JF, can you give me three tips so that I can start building those brick walls around my best customers?
As the end of last year approached, I advised everyone to consider conducting formal account reviews with all of their most important accounts – either face-face, or if that was not possible, then via the phone. It should have been a non-sales event, which would allow you to discover what business might be forthcoming from each client/customer in 2016. It would also have differentiated you, because this type of initiative is still, sadly, not common practice outside of my client base!
Second, when was the last time you asked your clients/customers how often they would like you to contact them? And have you ever asked them their preferred method of communication- i.e. email/personal visit/telephone? Carry out a survey; you might just be surprised at the results.
Third, map out your most important client’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 sown up. This is folly. Most decision-making units consist of more than two people, so whilst you are busy selling to one or two people who are already sold on you and your services/solutions, watch out for the politically astute competitor who is gradually covering all of the bases.
Always remember that the one term that sets top performers apart is “customer focus.”
Outstanding sales results depend on the ability to think from the customer’s point of view and understanding the customer’s agenda, buying cycle and best interests.
Beyond a superficial reading of immediate customer needs, the very best salespeople work to gain a deeper understanding of both the buyer’s long-term goals and the overall business climate.
At the heart of customer focus is the art of listening constructively – top achievers are masters at capturing information and they also understand that customer focus means taking the customer seriously. Believe me, to-day, the salesperson who clings to the product orientation of a decade ago is losing ground.
As client companies branch into new markets and unfamiliar territories, they are demanding unique, flexible solutions from their vendors – customized to support specific goals.
Another myth, which can be exploded is that whilst customers value flexibility, being too flexible can undermine the sales relationship. On the whole, salespeople imagine that customers value a vendor’s responsiveness above all. However there is ample research, which proves that their primary concern is reliability.
In summary, in order to maintain customer focus the best salespeople become facilitators, creating a partnership that extends the selling relationship within the customer’s company.
Customer focus really does create competitive advantage – I can assure you!