Do You Treat Current Customers as Well as New Customers?

Companies that win in the marketplace succeed not only by signing new customers, but also by doing the right things to maintain and grow current customers. Often, this gets down to salespeople establishing strong, collaborative relationships over time. To do this successfully, solid behavioral skills can be learned. Here’s an example of the difference taking care of existing customers can make.

The Situation

Darren is a sales rep for a glass supplier. He calls on Rachel, a product manager for a manufacturer that makes decorative windows. Rachel’s products are steady sellers. So, for three years, Rachel has placed monthly orders with Darren’s firm.

It’s not a large piece of business, but Darren likes having Rachel as a steady customer with a dependable revenue stream. He says, “I contact her regularly and drop by once in awhile when I have a new product catalog. It’s like clockwork. She gets what she needs, and we both know the drill.” Here’s part of a recent conversation:

Darren: How’s business?
Rachel: Oh, fine. We’re really busy right now. You know, this time of year.
Darren: Is there anything I can do for you? Anything you need?
Rachel: Nothing at the moment. Our development team will be working on some new designs.
Darren: Well, if you need additional product for that, let me know.

Getting That “Uh-Oh” Phone Call

A month later, Rachel phones Darren to tell him that her company has decided to go in a “different direction,” meaning, she was dropping Darren’s firm. Darren’s reaction is philosophical, but he does ask if he could have an opportunity to match the competitor’s price. Rachel declines.

What Doesn’t Darren Get?

Darren feels that he has serviced this account and shown diligence by checking on his client regularly and asking questions. He thinks Rachel was probably lured away by lower prices. From what you know of Q4 collaborative selling, what could Darren have done as part of his normal account management to head off losing this customer?

The Perils of Going Through the Motions in Sales

It’s obvious that Darren took a complacent, Q2 approach with Rachel. He is reluctant to disturb the status quo. In fact, you may wonder how Darren is successful at all. Remember, though, that selling behavior can change, depending on the context. While we may feel our approach is always proactive and above the line, perhaps we take certain customers for granted because orders come in regularly with minimal effort.

Show More than Minimal Interest in a Customer

In a fast-paced world, though, a previously comfortable relationship may not be meeting today’s needs. Why, then, didn’t Rachel voice dissatisfaction with Darren? She may have been showing her own Q2 apathy, at least until a more assertive, interested sales rep offered better alternatives.

Darren needs to realize that one of the key differentiators of Q4 selling is himself — what he says and does. Q4 selling is engaging and seeks out ways to make a difference beyond product or service benefits. Token probes, such as “How’s it going?” or “Anything we can do for you?”, not only show minimal interest, they may actually be viewed by Rachel as annoying interruptions.

What should Darren have done? Plan his conversation with meaning and benefits specific to Rachel. Probe to raise her interest and to discover fresh partnering opportunities to serve her current needs.

Being Responsive to the Customer

She gave Darren a chance to become a more active resource when she brought up new product design. Darren should have asked for details. It may have given him an opportunity to show Rachel how various styles of glass could help inspire the creative phase of product development. That could have led to his meeting other key decision-makers.

When you can become the added value and benefit to a customer, it gives more reasons for your customers to think long and hard before switching. So, are you taking a Q4 active interest in all of your regular customers? Doing so will help avoid the kind of phone call Darren received.