Dec 26, 2018
“Never Forget A Customer; Never Let A Customer Forget You”
This is an old saying in sales and one we forget at our cost. We might have made the sale and then we keep moving forward. We get wrapped up in the intricacies of the getting other customers to commit and in the logistical details of delivering our previously sold service or product. Our schedule fills up quickly and we have filled it with the present and future, not the past. That customer we sold to gets forgotten in this busy life and they return the compliment and forget about us too. We know that creating new customers is more expensive on an acquisition cost basis and that selling again or selling more to our existing customers is easier than making a new sale. Why then don’t we do a better job of developing further business with our existing customers?
We usually do a good job in the immediate post sales service period, but the key word there is “immediate”. We don’t schedule in the “just checking in “ contact, because we are too busy chasing down the new contacts. Now that the customer has had the benefit of our product or service, we don’t call back and ask, “How has it been going? Are there any subsequent issues that have arisen that we can help with or fix?”. A good rule to apply is always make the time to connect with the buyer. They will either be happy and we can see if they know others, who would also benefit. If they are unhappy, we can fix the issue for them. Silent, unhappy customers are not what we want, because we are killing our brand and our reputation without even knowing it.
Clients may have cyclical needs when there is a certain cadence to their buying. Upgrades or replacements require follow up. When these are scheduled into our diaries, we can make sure to re-contact the client. It may be that there is no sequence logic and so we have to create a schedule, so that they don’t forget us. There are few things more disheartening then contacting an existing client to find they did have a need and they filled that need with our competitor’s solution. I really hate having that conversation.
We can add the client to our email mailing lists and they get updates. The problem is that they don’t read them or even notice them, so a “set and forget” idea is a bad idea. We have to be able to cut through all the clutter and noise of daily life to reach out to them, so that we stay top of mind. This is harder today, more so than it has ever been. There are so many emails, so much social media, so many meetings, no wonder our buyers get swamped. Trying to get anyone on the phone these days is mind numbingly hard and it is like a miracle if you succeed. No one calls you back anymore either.
Japan has a set pattern of seasonal gifts which are sent to clients for the express purpose of reminding them that they have not been forgotten. Depending on how many clients you have, this can become expensive and is probably easier for larger firms. A hand written thank you note on the anniversary of the business conducted with the client is not expensive and because hardly anyone gets postal mail anymore, it will stand out. Even though you can’t get people on the phone so easily, don’t just hang up. Don’t expect to get called back either but always leave a voice message, so they hear your voice and understand you have been thinking of them. Some of my business contacts here tell me that their millennial employees avoid the phone like the plague, much preferring to text. It doesn’t matter, young or old, leave them a voice mail anyway.
Sending relevant White Papers, books, reports, media clippings are always good ideas, but you can’t leave this to chance. It is a good discipline to be looking for these items, with specific customers in mind. When you see something that will resonate with them, this is when you have to be disciplined to send it. This doesn’t have to be every month of course, but probably twice a year is a good practice, on top of the email blasts and newsletters that existing clients receive anyway.
Making appointments with yourself, is one of the best ways to make sure we actually do the immediate and the sustained follow up. Good intentions are terrific, but planned, disciplined contacts are better. Choosing electronic or analogue systems is not the issue, the real key is having a system that delivers the updating, reminding process to the buyer. If we don’t have a system then we need to create one and the best time to start was yesterday.