One HUGE Revenue Source that more experienced and successful direct sales people tap (that almost all other sales people neglect) is their current customer base. In fact, many of the referrals and renewal sales our company makes comes from marketing events versus sales people’s actions. For example, I recently called on several current customers to secure testimonials we were going to use for a marketing piece. On my first phone call, I received a referral that turned into a sale within three days. And another client I talked to immediately showed interest in a different product we offer.
With all the countless hours spent prospecting, cold-calling, and sending marketing pieces, you should first make certain you are staying on top of your current customer base. We recently implemented a policy that mandates that each of our current customers must be contacted a minimum of once every 90 to 105 days. A salesperson’s failure to do this can result in losing that customer. In fact, we’ve found that by NOT contacting our customer base, we not only forfeit vital up-sells and referrals, but we usually end up losing the client due to the lack of relationship. It makes it easy for a competitor to come in when the client feels no obligation to his or her current supplier.
Current Customer Follow-up System
One vital tool you must utilize is a customer management system. There are many types of software packages on the market. If you’re disciplined, virtually anyone of them will do. In
fact, we’ve seen several sales people use their ‘old fashion day-timer’ system with fantastic results. But the bottom line is, you must commit to contacting each customer on a regular basis (even if the call just ends up being a ”hello, how are you doing?” call.)
I recommend staying in touch with your clients at least once a quarter. Even if you’re only able to leave a voice mail, at least try to contact your customer. Don’t be lazy and resort to email blasts- It’s NOT THE SAME THING. In fact, I don’t know about you, but I’ve often felt neglected if a sales person only sent me an email and totally neglected to follow-up with me. Emails are a marketing tool, but they won’t replace the value of a personal phone call or in-person visit.
The customer follow-up should start at the first sale. Upon completing the sale, let your customer know that he or she can count on you staying in touch. I usually say something like, “I’ll be in touch- and I really mean it. You can expect a call from me every few months if that’s
o.k., just to make sure your current order is working out for you and to see if you need anything else.” I’ve never received a bad response to this, and I actually enjoy talking with these people.
Your first follow-up call can go like this: “Hi Bill, it’s Chris with XYZ. How’s it
going? I mentioned I’d be following up with you. Is everything going all right with your
product?” Don’t be afraid to receive any criticism or complaints at this point. In fact, wouldn’t you rather find out at this point that there may be a problem than later on when your customer goes to a different company or returns your item? However, usually your client responds positively which then leads you to the next phase, the up-sell.
Current Customer Up-selling
The next thing you should do is launch into what would resemble a prospecting call. You may either have a product or service in mind to pitch your current customer, or you can fact-find to see what’s needed. I usually start like this: “I’m glad you like the ABC Product. I was talking with Kyle Smith the other day. He’s been using the ABC for about 9 months now. He decided he liked it so much that he went ahead and took a look at our BCD add-on product. Now’s he’s really getting into it because the add-on makes the original ABC even more efficient. What would you say about letting me drop some info to you about the add-on?”
If you noticed, I started by using rapport (a name my client should already know that I learned from my original sale,) my goal is to create interest. My next goal (which should be the purpose of any direct-sales phone prospecting,) is to set an appointment or to receive permission to make a personal visit. Now I obviously would want to set an appointment ONLY IF there’s a reasonable chance that I could make a sale, but if I’m dealing with a current customer, my odds are probably good enough to invest this time!
If I’m not sure of a product to pitch my current customer, I then can go into fact-finding mode by asking my client what, if any, needs may exist at that time. I’ll say something like, “Well, Bill, I was also calling to see if there’s anything else you may be looking at doing, or if anyone else at your company may be looking for something.” Now although Bill may say, “Nope, we’re
O.K. for now,” I’ve paved the way for going after something extremely valuable: referrals!
Current Customer Referrals
My next objective (which alone is worth the time to call your customer anyway,) is to seek out referrals. It really helps if you’ve prepared for this by knowing the names of other decision makers or companies that your current customer could help you with. What I mean is this: “Well Bill, I’m glad you guys are doing o.k. for now. But I was wondering if you could help me out. I’ve been trying to see the purchasing agent at ABC company, and I was wondering if you knew anyone over there I might be able to talk to.” At this point, let Bill think about it for a second. If he knows someone, you just receive a valuable referral. If not, just continue to probe. “Well, how about BCD Corp? Or even AAA Company?” “Or Bill, can you think of anyone else I might be able to call?”
If your company has a referral program (incentives to those that point new business your way,) now’s the time to mention it. “Bill, I might have forgot to tell you, but we offer $500 to anyone who helps us land an account” or mention whatever it is that you offer. Even if your company doesn’t have anything in place, you can still say something like “Well Bill, it means a lot to me to be able to work with people like you and ABC Company. I really appreciate it when my customers send new business my way.” Chances are, you’ll receive one or two (or many) valuable referrals now or in the future.
Ending Call on a Positive
Make sure to spend a minute building rapport with your current customer, and let him know that you will again be following up in the future. I usually ask about something of importance to the client (could be family related, company related, or hobby related,) and again thank the customer for his time. Sometimes you’ll find that it’s difficult getting off the phone with a current customer if they really like you a lot. Be careful not to waste time letting a current customer talk your ear off (unless of course you want to.) Just simply wrap the conversation by saying, “It was nice to talk with you! I’d better let you go- I know you’re busy! I look forward to talking with you in a few months.” And end your call!
Referral Follow-up Appreciation
If your customer gave you referrals, make sure you follow-up with an email or thank you note. Or if one of your customer’s referrals resulted in a sale, make sure you do something special for your current customer. Thank you notes go a LONG way, but sending your customer a $50 gift card or gift certificate will pay huge dividends in the future. Any time I’ve ever given a referral and received a present in return, it reconfirmed my commitment level in giving additional referrals in the future. Conversely, in the past, when I’ve helped a salesperson land a big account and not even received a ‘thank you,’ I usually was turned-off. I don’t think I’m being weird for having this feeling. I once gave a real estate agent a bunch of referrals which ended up resulting in several sales to this person. I never even received a ‘thanks’ and worse yet, this real estate agent never even followed-up with me for my own future business! I’ve since started using a agent who knows how to manage her account base. Don’t let this happen to you.