Julie Thomas is President and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, a sponsor of the 2013 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, the world's top business awards for contact center, customer service, business development, and sales professionals. (All organizations and individuals worldwide are eligible to submit entries for sales awards and customer service awards. January 15, 2013 is the last day that late entries will be accepted; request your entry kit here and it will be emailed to you right away.) Here Julie shares her tips on for retaining customers.
Many salespeople are guilty of "hit-and-run" selling: They get the order, and then disappear until the renewal is due or they want to upgrade the customer with additional products or services.
Successful sales professionals understand a fundamental, yet basic, concept: The cost of keeping a customer is far less than the cost of bringing in a new customer. They intuitively know the importance of staying in touch with everyone impacted in the purchase decision throughout the lifecycle of the relationship. Regularly reinforcing, communicating, and reviewing a customer’s purchase decision will not only help to solidify the business relationship over time, it will also increase the likelihood that they will retain their customers.
The Business of Customer Success
The business of sales isn't simply the acquisition of new customers; it is also the renewing and reselling of your existing customer base. A top sales professional that I work with once told me that he wasn't in the sales profession: he was in the "customer success business". The sale of his product and service was a derivative result.
A key aspect of your role as a salesperson is to maintain and grow the revenue from your existing customers. Losing customers is akin to losing a key corporate asset.
More Than Just a Commission Check
People are satisfied when their needs are met and value is realized from their purchasing decisions. Checking in from time to time shows customers that you see them as more than just a series of commission checks. It also justifies the trust they put in you in the first place, which makes the buying process a lower-risk proposition and sets you up for a successful second or third sale.
When Things Change
What if you find that it's been months since you last spoke to a key customer? What if the "champions" who originally decided on your solution are no longer in their original positions?
When things change over time in your customers' worlds—and they will—the ValueSelling conversation can be used again and again to reconnect to the new players and executives in your account. A fundamental principle of ValueSelling is: "People need a reason to change." An existing customer will need a reason to change away from your company, so key aspects to customer retention are:
- Proactive communications;
- Review of business issues; and
- Uncovering new problems that your company and its solutions are uniquely positioned to address.
Maintain a Rigorous Sales Process
Value in the past doesn't necessarily guarantee value in the future. Once a need has been satisfied, or a problem solved, it is no longer a motivator. Yet most sales people don't approach renewal sales with the same rigor of sales process that they do with new business. ValueSelling can help you avoid that trap. Use the process for both renewals and existing customers to ensure that they keep doing business with you and your company.
About Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas, President and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, is a noted speaker, author and consultant. Thomas began her career at Gartner Group and in 1999, she became Vice President of Gartner’s Sales Training for the Americas, which included successfully managing the training of new hires in the ValueSelling process. In 2003, Thomas acquired ValueSelling Associates with the support of ValueSelling CEO and co-founder Lloyd Sappington. Since then, Thomas has led the company to become an industry leader in competency- and process-based training for escalating sales performance.
Thomas is a guest lecturer at both Babson University and the University of Michigan. She is a member of the advisory board of the eWomenNetwork Foundation Advisory Council and is heavily involved with her local public schools as well as the San Diego Children’s Hospital Auxiliary. Thomas earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Since 1991,ValueSelling Associates has helped FORTUNE 1000 business-to-business sales organizations around the world compete and win. Generating revenue is the goal of all sales organizations. To do that, sales teams need the right tools, skills, and processes to succeed. ValueSelling Associates has maintained its position as a leader in the industry for nearly 20 years by continually evolving to meet the new challenges sales forces face. Clients turn to ValueSelling Associates for classroom training, e-learning, and consulting services that yield immediate impact, repeatable strategies, and sustainable results. For more information, go to www.valueselling.com.