By Bridget McCrea
In the article When the Going Gets Tough, Turn to Your Best Customers, tED discussed the importance of focusing on your long-term customers, rather than chasing after new ones. In this follow-up piece, we share strategies to carry out that plan of action.
Combine the high cost of new customer acquisition with the fact that your best customers are likely to stay with you for the long haul (provided your company meets and exceeds their expectations), and it’s easy to see why digging deeper into your existing client base is more important than ever during uncertain economic times.
To get the most out of this strategy, here are five tips for success for electrical distributors looking to increase revenue-per-customer and get their sales staffs focused on upselling, marketing additional services, and increasing order sizes:
- Know your customers’ business and strategic agendas: What are their corporate priorities for the year? What are the big hurdles they are trying to overcome? What are their goals? Who are the key players? “Sellers and account managers often say to us, ‘We know our accounts’ business very well,'” writes sales trainer Mike Schultz in 6 Tips to Sell More to Existing Accounts. “But when pressed, they often have a long way to go when it comes to strategy.” He says companies can overcome this obstacle by uncovering their customer’s priorities, and then gaining a better understanding of where and how to add value. “Simply by having conversations about the big picture,” Schultz writes, “you’re likely to uncover opportunities where you can help.”
- Make customers feel special. The Internet may have given your customers an enormous repository of product data, pricing, and vendor options to choose from, but how many online sellers are truly making those customers feel special? By looking behind the numbers to understand your customers’ pain points, business strategies, financial situations, and operational strengths, you can assist them in coming up with solutions that help them meet their business goals. As part of this process, your company will become a valued, long-term provider of products and services.
- Make your customers a part of the process. If you are considering adding new products or services, then give your customers the opportunity to voice their opinion about those new options. “If your existing customers feel engaged in the development of your business, they will purchase more,” according to Maximizer’s 4 Easy Ways To Increase Revenue From Existing Customers.The good news is that making your best clients a part of the process doesn’t have to take much time or effort—simply ask them for their feedback during a regular sales call, include a comments section in your company’s newsletter, or introduce the product in an email to them, and ask for their suggestions.
- Put the right people in place. As Trimber mentioned earlier in this article, corporate culture plays a key role in the retention of long-term customers. “It’s about having values built into your company all the time, and not just as a reaction to an economic crisis,” says Trimber, who adds that the firm that has the right people in place will likely be the one that finds, retains, and cultivates the long-term relationships over the one-time sale. “When times are slow, your customers buy from you because they know that they can rely on you even when they’re having bad days,” says Trimber.
- Focus on the future, even if the present is challenging. Hunkering down is the most common reaction to a down economy, but it’s a trap that electrical distributors should avoid. “Obviously we need to be prudent and manage expenses better than ever in a weak economy,” writes sales expert Chuck Reaves in 12 Sales Changes You Must Make to Sell Your Way out of a Recession. “However, keep the future in mind for yourself and, especially, for your customers.” For instance, if you see that your customers are cutting back on maintenance items that can be temporarily deferred, what will be the impact after that decision? Will your customers experience more equipment failures? More down time? Missed shipments? What will that cost them? “Think about what you can do now to help your clients prevent that,” Reaves writes, “or respond to it quickly when it does occur.”
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
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