When times are good, running a business is at times a piece of cake. Acquiring new customers comes easy, margins are good, and many companies build relationships based on mediocre service. In contrast, when the economic climate changes and cost-cutting is coming at you from every angle, a strategic business owner or manager must understand he or she cannot afford to operate the old way. Today, getting new customers can be flat out hard and at times a marathon. In addition, the acquisitions of new customers is increasingly expensive and let's face it, most times you're selling to strangers. Even if you land the customer, developing relationships take time and effort, and is consequently very expensive too. The old days of acquiring new customers at any cost are gone. Today, the investment in developing customers is such that you simply can't afford to fail. Unfortunately, most organizations and their sales forces either don't have a strategy or they ignore the one they have (which usually takes existing customers for granted). If you don't think relationships are the key to increasing sales in your organization, come to one of our "Sales & Marketing Boot Camps."
So how do we change this mindset and get our clients engaged in a true strategic sales plan? We start by getting them to come to a realization that it is more cost-effective and easier to sell to their existing customers first. Let's face it; they are already doing business with you. All you have to do is learn how to retain them. Unfortunately most strategies are built around new business and not going deeper with your existing customers. In essence, little or no relationship is built. "The revenue is in the relationships folks." Here's a good way to start:
1. Identify your Clients and Prospects: I am often amazed at how few sales people can identify their top clients and prospects when asked.
2. Understanding them: The key to success is first understanding the power dynamics of the target. In addition, you have to recognize that everyone has individual likes and dislikes, and that each person must be sold to accordingly.
3. Find out who the Decision-Makers are: Who are they, who assists them, and who really holds the power?
4. Test to see how they feel about your company.
5. What are their needs from you and your company? This requires a plan to develop each account on a continuous basis.
Once you have completed these questions for each target account, it times to implement your plan. It's important for your team to understand that your past relationships with this account could be based solely on past market conditions, so you may need to remind them that you may have to run a marathon versus a 5K. Effectively communicate your plan to your team-members: The more they know the higher chances of success! Good, solid relationships take time to develop. If you've got a lot of decision makers that have a good feel about your company your work is much easier. On the other hand, if your decision makers don't send out good vibes about your company, that marathon might be lengthened a bit. Realistically you will probably have a mix.
In my experience, I have found that taking the time to strategically look at client and prospect, much deeper than you usually would, is worth not only the time and effort, but also the expense.