The secret to long-term sales success is to follow two simple sales rules. Ignore either of these rules, and your sales will begin to drop faster than pressure in a broken hydraulic line. The two sales rules are:
Sales Rule #1: Keep what you've got.
Sales Rule #2: Get more.
If you're like most companies, you haven't put a lot of effort into Sales Rule #1. And that's a shame, because while you're out trying to get new business, your competitors are putting that same amount of effort into stealing your existing customers.
Over the last 20 years, I've read study after study that says the most common reason for customers to switch vendors is a lack of attention - customers felt ignored, unappreciated, or just plain taken for granted. Think about the people you buy from on a regular basis - how many of them let you know in no uncertain terms that they appreciate and value your business?
It is an unfortunate fact of life that you can't keep all of your customers. Companies move or go out of business. They change the way they do things and don't need your products or services any more. But a lot of business is lost simply because the vendor didn't make a consistent effort to keep the business.
In upcoming newsletters we'll talk about Rule #2 and explore a few ways to get more business - because getting more business is every bit as critical as keeping the business you already have.
It is, however, a lot easier and cheaper to keep your existing business than it is to get new business. So I'd strongly suggest you think about things you can do to keep the business you've got. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Warmly and sincerely thank your customers for their business each and every time they give you an order in person or over the phone. If you're going to take away only one idea from this newsletter, this is the one. Smile. Call them by name. If you're seeing them in person, firmly shake their hand. And thank them. A simple and sincere "Tom, thanks for the order, I really appreciate it" will go a long way towards letting your customer know you value their business - and it doesn't cost you a thing.
The rest of these ideas should be "mixed and matched" so you aren't doing the exact same thing over and over and over again. And you don't need to thank the same customer every week or even every month - so few companies thank their customers that you'll really stand out when you send a "Thank You" note or card. If you send a "Thank You" note to the same customer every month, it will stop being a special touch and start seeming like a sales tactic. While a verbal thank you is appropriate each and every time a customer places an order in person or over the phone, other forms of thanks should be given often enough that the customer never forgets that you value his business, but not so often that the "Thank You" starts to seem routine.
- Set aside 15 minutes each day to call several of your customers and thank them for their business. You could say something as simple as "Hi Jim, I'm calling to say ' thank you' for your business. We really appreciate it, and I just wanted to be sure you knew how much we value our relationship with you."
- Mail several handwritten thank-you notes each day. You can get stock cards that have "Thank You" preprinted on the front, or get fancy and have a printer make some cards for you with your logo as a watermark inside. Your handwritten message could be as simple as "Hi Tom, Thanks for your business, all of us here appreciate it!"
- Send your customer a thank-you card with one of those small package of tropical flavored candy taped inside. The card would look something like this:
- E-mail a Thank You. Sending customers an E-mail thank-you is quick, easy and inexpensive. Just be sure you don't overdo it.
You can also do things like "Customer Appreciation Day" with an open house; "Frequent Buyer Program" where regular customers get a discount or a gift for frequent purchases; take your customer out to lunch; or even send customers flowers, candy or gift certificates. The drawback to all of those ideas is they can be rather expensive. The goal is to make sure customers know you appreciate their business - not to add additional selling costs to business you already have.
In the next "Sales 101" newsletter, we'll begin looking at Sales Rule #2 and some ways to get new business. But before you start trying to bring in new business, make sure you'll be keeping the business you already have.
Questions, comments or suggestions? You can send an E-mail to Rob Fish, firstname.lastname@example.org