Get Your Fair Share – and More!
Your customer places 10 orders per year for the services you provide—what percentage of them go to you? If the answer is anything less than 100%, you may be missing an opportunity!
As you know, the cost of getting business from an existing client is a fraction of the cost of getting business from a prospect. To boost sales, without dramatically increasing expenses, focus on maximizing customer share–capturing a greater percentage of each client’s business.
Five Ways to Increase Customer Share
Partner for mutual gain
Pop quiz. Make a list of your top 10 customers. Then, for each customer, write down a list of their top three business challenges. Finally, list one to three solutions you can offer for each of those challenges.
So, how did you do? Do you know your top 10 customers? Do you know their challenges and can you offer solutions?
Right now, your customers are feeling the same pains you are. They may need to cut costs, increase sales, and/or improve productivity. How can you help? And more importantly, do your sales people understand how your services can be used to solve business problems?
To partner for mutual gain, you first have to understand your customers’ challenges and opportunities. Invest the time to learn each customer’s business. What does the business do? How do they make money? How does your customer’s performance compare to other companies in their industry? For each of your top clients, develop a list of their most significant challenges and opportunities.
Next, look for those areas of mutual gain–places where your services could help the customer to resolve challenges and realize opportunities. Interestingly enough, as an outside expert, you may see areas for improvement that your clients can’t see.
Network, network, network
Which is stronger: a single strand of silk or an intricate spider web? A single strand is weak and fragile. It can easily be broken. A web, however, offers great strength. And while a single strand surely won’t catch many flies, a web lets very little escape!
How strong is the web you have with each of your customers? If you’re relying on relationships with one or two contacts, you may be at risk. Strengthen your webs through networking.
When most people network, they focus on prospect development. But, the most effective networks are often those created within established accounts. The more people you know within a company, the more information you’ll be able to access. The more information you have, the better you can anticipate and solve problems. And the more relationships you develop, the more business you’ll get (and of course, the less likely you’ll be to lose clients).
Build your networks with multiple departments and at multiple levels. Have your senior executives nurture relationships with your client’s decision makers. Make your service coordinators accountable for getting to know the needs and wants of the order placers and end users. And give account managers responsibility for solidifying your networking web–meeting new contacts and deepening relationships with existing ones.
Sell new solutions
A marketing consultant once asked a business owner who his top competitors were. The owner listed two or three strong players in his market. The consultant shot back that the business owner was way off base. His biggest competitors weren’t just the direct competitors; they were all the other vendors!
Every business has limited dollars to spend. Every dollar spent with someone else is a dollar not spent with you. To increase client share, provide more of the products and services your clients need.
For example, if you have sales people calling on HR, what other products and services does HR buy? Could you also offer these? Could you become a reseller for someone else or form a strategic partnership with a company that can supply those goods and services?
The more problems you can solve for your clients, the deeper your relationship will become—and the greater your client share will be. Now, this is not to recommend that you try to be all things to all people. But by looking at your customers’ purchases, you may discover new opportunities. And at a minimum, you will learn a great deal more about their businesses.
Are you a problem solver or an order taker? Sadly, most companies fall into the latter category. Services are provided on a transactional basis. Price is a driving influence in decision making. And often, the sales person knows too little about the real needs and wants of the business.
To increase customer share, become a problem solver. Anyone can fill an order. Few know how to solve a problem. People will pay more for solutions to problems. They will also reward problem solvers with additional business. But, becoming a problem solver isn’t easy. Many businesses have developed transactional buying habits—seeking out the commodity suppliers who can offer the best prices.
To beat the price game, sell value. Value comes from solving problems. It may be defined in terms of cost savings, productivity gains, or pain avoided. In order to discover your opportunities to deliver value, concentrate your sales efforts on building deeper relationships with your clients. Set a goal of getting your client relationships to the point where you have mutual trust—where clients are willing to discuss their problems candidly and listen to your solutions.
Building relationships requires careful and persistent nurturing. Trust must be earned, and haphazard follow-up won’t suffice. The best nurturing programs are well planned and take a multidimensional approach, combining in person contact with telephone, direct mail, and e-mail. These programs educate, add value, and promote conversation.
Nurturing programs should also emphasize learning. If you don’t already have one, create a detailed profile of each of your clients. Harvey Mackay, in his book Swim with the Sharks, provided an excellent list of 66 client profiling questions. In your profile, create a list of the questions you would need to know in order to identify problems and develop solutions. In the process of deepening relationships, you will be able to gather the answers to these questions.
OK, so this isn’t really a way to increase client share. But leveraging existing client relationships is one of the best, and most often underused, ways to generate new sales leads.
If you’ve taken the time to build strong relationships with your clients, referrals should be easy to obtain. Good clients want you to succeed. They trust you, and they know the value you can provide. Generally speaking, satisfied customers will gladly provide referrals–if you ask for them.
Client Relationships Equal Success
In every economy–from slow to booming–client relationships are the key to success. Strong relationships provide you with access to information. They allow you to discover your client’s challenges and opportunities. They differentiate you from the competition, and they help you to sell value.
To maximize your client share, create your own program to systematically nurture customer relationships. Discover how you can help your customers to become more successful, and then share in the mutual gain!