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How to Better Retain Clients

It takes more effort to land a new client than it does to keep one. Learn the tricks of the trade to generate repeat sales.

Barry Farber

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While we all know the importance of prospecting, too many sales people focus on prospecting for new business, to the detriment of current clients and their own bottom line. And the amount of effort one puts into landing a new client is said to be five-to-10 times the effort required to retain that client. In other words, prospecting is much harder work than generating repeat business. So what are some of the steps you can take to ensure your customer stays with you and expands their business with your business? Here are three key activities that will build trust and future business opportunities.

1. Tie your products or services to the customer’s bottom line

In today’s world the bottom line is a high priority. It was a high priority yesterday too, but more and more companies want to know what you and your product or service will do to impact their sales, overall business growth and their long-term success. Keeping this in mind, it’s important for you to demonstrate how your product or service will increase their revenue and gross profits. Knowing how your customer makes money and measures their success must become one of your key goals.

First, keep it simple. When I sit down with business owners, I ask straightforward questions that will keep me close to the customers’ goals such as:

  • How does your business work and how do you make money?
  • What are your immediate and long-term goals?
  • Is there anything we’re not doing that we could be doing to serve you better?
  • What are the most important actions we can focus on to improve your business, sales and bottom line?
  • What has changed in your business since we first started doing business together?

I know some of you would say you should know that already, and I say, no kidding! But asking these questions will get you information that no website or research can match, and enable you to maintain their business for the long haul.

2. Build relationships with multiple players in the organisation

Doing this will ensure greater support for your services. Some sales people miss the opportunity to introduce themselves to others in the businesses they’re visiting. Maybe they think the individual is too low on the totem pole to influence any decisions.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone within an organisation has significance in future decisions. Who knows when that one person might get a promotion to the position where you need their help?

Or, how many times have you met someone in a company and they get hired at another company that ends up calling you. Why would they choose to call you? Because you became the mayor of your account. You treat each contact as the most important person when they’re in front of you.

Last month I made over 200 canvassing calls with a variety of sales people and you wouldn’t believe the insider knowledge we found from bellhops to security guards. By listening to everyone we encountered, we gleaned information that made a huge difference when we were in front of the VP and knew things about the organisation that even she didn’t know. Take the time to build as many relationships as you can. It will make a difference in the long run.

3. Let go of accounts that waste your time and money

Cut your losses with accounts that never seem to appreciate the value of your services; they take away from building the accounts that will pay off in the long run. They constantly hammer you on price, ask for everything for nothing and end up sucking the life out of you. Go after more qualified accounts so you can afford to pick and choose.

Proactive selling to your existing clients not only grows your sales, it builds your confidence and deepens relationships, too. Hmm, I can work less while still growing my sales? Now that’s a win-win.

Barry Farber is a top speaker and bestselling author of 11 books on sales, management and personal achievement.

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Techniques

Want To Become A Supplier To A Big Company? Consider This First

A giant customer can be highly profitable or cost you your business. Have you considered all the angles?

Ed Hatton

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“How do I get into the big corporates or Government?” Business owners visualise huge sales and profits by becoming a supplier to a giant, and that is often the case. For a big organisation with billions to spend, a trivial expenditure to them may be a large fortune to you. Do not let the number of zeros dazzle you, riches are not guaranteed; many entrepreneurs have suffered losses or businesses collapse from such dealings.

You must understand the motivations of managers of large organisations, and the risks they face. They are KPI-driven and risk serious damage to their careers if something goes badly wrong. Compared to these issues, your profitability, work hours and ego are minor considerations. You may believe that you only have to perform in terms of your agreement, but in reality, you need to make your contacts look good. Aim for a zero fail rate; deliveries that are late, faulty or incorrect may cause a disproportionate explosion because that means your contact has let someone down. If you are smart, you can help your contacts get a reputation for superior internal service.

Related: How To Stay One Step Ahead In The Knowledge Era

Understand the risks that big customers pose to your business

There are risks in any unequal buyer/seller relationship. The biggest risk is if the giant stops buying. Large customers can be extremely demanding; they see you as an extension of their business and can be intolerant of your need to service other customers. Many small suppliers will be familiar with a peremptory summons to an immediate meeting and occasional rudeness. A supply contract inevitably favours the big guy, and this means pricing and other terms of trade are vital. You must protect your ability to make a reasonable margin even if circumstances like inflation, exchange rates or sector wage agreements change.  

Large organisations care about meeting their budgets, not about your profitability, and many suppliers have failed because they were bound to supply goods at an unsustainable price. Managers move around, and if your champion is promoted, the replacement manager may prefer their favourite suppliers, so out you go. Broaden your range of contacts in the organisation to avoid this risk.  Large organisations are huge bureaucracies; decisions may take time and payments may be delayed, especially if your paperwork is not perfect.

There are opportunities — but evaluate them carefully

The major opportunity is significant growth. They will buy if you supply a product or service that suits their needs and budget at service levels that make the managers look good. It is entirely possible to make your company almost indispensable by solving problems and offering them innovative new ways of exceeding their KPIs at reduced cost. There are opportunities to supply other parts of the giant, as well as their supply chains. Be careful with growth. Your primary contact will be used to your full attention and if he or she senses that this is no longer happening because you have grown, they can seek alternative suppliers. Never let growth reduce your customer service level.

A very large and prestigious customer gives your company credibility, allows you to attract the brightest staff, makes selling to other giants easier and gives you funds to develop new markets and new products.

Related: Are You Forgetting To Think About Your Business Strategy?

Is it worth it?

Is it worth the big money? Yes, if you can manage the risks, chief of which is becoming too dependent on one customer. However, dealing with the big gorillas is not the same as having a more balanced supplier/buyer relationship. It works if you use your ability to be nimble and flexible to solve their problems. It helps if you are innovative and can use your creativity to respond rapidly in ways that big corporations cannot. It works if you can give very personal service, even if that means you, the owner, are the primary interface. By doing these things you can become an indispensable cog in a huge machine.


REMEMBER THIS

You need a champion in your client’s organisation, but ensure you have other contacts too. What happens if they leave or are promoted? Is your contract safe?

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Techniques

Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things

Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things.

Andrew Aitken

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As someone responsible for sales in a growing business, you would love to be able to predict your sales accurately, month after month – but this can be a difficult process. Fortunately, it’s not impossible. With some initial effort and careful monitoring, you can predict whether the team will have positive sales results in the future, and where you can see trouble looming, you can take advance action to avoid problems.

Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things:

1. Developing a sales process

As ‘boring” as it might sound for many entrepreneurs, it is extremely useful to understand the benefits of working to a process in business. This applies to any part of the business, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is very applicable to sales.

Related: How To Find The Right Salespeople: And Attract Them To Your Business

Think about it this way:

  • If you do the same task a different way every time, you can expect a different outcome every time. It becomes difficult to predict whether the outcome will be good or bad.
  • But if you do the same task the same way every time, the outcome becomes very predictable, and you’ve laid a platform for systematic improvement. By making one small tweak to how you do the task, you can see if you get a better, or a worse, outcome. You can then keep all the tweaks that improve your outcome and drop the tweaks that make it worse.

2. Developing sales systems

A superior quality sales management capability necessitates that you have a Sales System on a best of breed technology platform, to help manage the sales function in the business.

A good sales system helps you capture your sales process. Good sales management practices drive home the discipline needed to implement the sales process, and in turn, predict sales results.

Take the first step in your journey towards accurately predicting sales by developing a sound sales process.

Next in this series: HOW TO DEVELOP A SALES PROCESS THAT WORKS LIKE A CHARM

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Company Posts

Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption

You’ve got chatbots running your customer service, interactive screens across your stores and you’ve just appointed a chief digital officer. Why aren’t you seeing sales going through the roof?

PwC

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PwC partner Quinton Pienaar says there could be many reasons for this. But the short answer is probably that in your understandable rush to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology trends and developments, you lost sight of your number one priority. You’re just not that into your customers – and they know it.

It’s fairly easy to get dazzled by the array of technologies out there. But the trap that you’ve got to guard against is that you start seeing the world through a technology lens, rather than a customer one. Remember, technology is a tool, not an outcome. It’s the means to the end, not the end itself.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be transforming your business digitally. You absolutely should. But there’s a big difference between investing in technology to keep up with the Joneses, and investing in technology that’s going to drive specific business outcomes and improve the customer experience.

Related: Reimagine The Use Of Technology

In fact, it would be downright dangerous to ignore the game-changing benefits that the current wave of emerging technologies brings to the table. To understand what they can do for your business, you have to know what they are. We at PwC talk about the ‘essential eight’:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the building blocks for the next generation of digital work.
  • Robotics, drones, and 3-D printing are all about machines that extend the reach of computing power into the material world.
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) merge the physical and digital realms, and offer incredible advances in customer experience.
  • Blockchain rethinks our approach to commercial transactions by allowing participants to exchange value, and verify ownership of something, without a third party.

Some of these technologies are verging on science fiction. So how do we use them in a way that supports customer obsession? The starting point of any successful customer transformation is a customer-focused design that brings together three essential elements – business strategy, customer experience and technology – into a coherent, fully-fledged digital strategy.

In other words, today’s most successful companies have a strategy that is focused around a simple and regularly-updated list of priorities. They incorporate the new generation of technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. But they keep their people, and their customers at the core of their business by designing strategies that directly address customers’ underlying needs and desired outcomes.

Related: Why Your Latest Tech Investment Might Not Be Wowing Your Customers

This sounds dead obvious. But what we find is that many companies we talk to are focused on growing their revenues, or making improvements to their products and services, rather than creating better customer experiences. Or they have the strategy, but are battling to execute it effectively.

Of course, to underpin this customer transformation journey, you’re going to need some data and the foundational technologies on which today’s innovations depend – data mining and analytics, mobile, and cloud. You may also need to rethink your processes to manage, enrich and maintain data, and operationalise it throughout your business.

So you have all of that in place? Good. Now stop. Breathe. Ask yourself whether your technology and data are truly supporting an unwavering focus on the customer. Because if you take one message from this article, let it be this: in today’s marketplace, putting your customer at the centre of your business is imperative to driving growth and profitability, winning market share and unlocking the value of your technology investments.

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