Sure, every business needs customers. But that shouldn’t mean forgetting about existing customers.
Every business owner, sales manager, and marketer loves finding new customers. The initial contact, the first meeting. The sales pitch, the demonstration, and submission of proposal. Then follows the negotiation, the close, the transaction and, finally, the payment.
It’s a complex dance, often with many intricate steps. Any one of those steps can go awry at any time. potentially resulting in sales failure.
I think that’s part of the fascination. Business owners and sales managers are often Type A personalities. They relish the thrill of the chase. The sport, the competition against sales professionals from other businesses who are just as hungry for the sale. The importance of understanding the prospect – what makes them tick. The desire to win. The inherent risk and ultimate cost of failure. Looking at it this way you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all quite primeval, and there’s probably some truth in that.
You’ve Got The Sale. Now What?
Let’s suppose you’ve navigated successfully around the potential pitfalls to failure and – congratulations – closed the deal.
What happens next?
Sure, the customer takes delivery. Maybe there’s an onboarding phase – installation, training, support, and so on.
But I’m thinking farther forward. I’m thinking about the time when, perhaps, your business starts to sell another product or service. Something new. Something you’ve never sold before. Where do you find customers for this new thing?
Too many businesses start from Square One. They look at audience segmentation, awareness generation, advertising, marketing, cold-calling, whatever. That’s all fine and dandy. But maybe there’s some low-hanging fruit out there.
Has anyone spoken with the audience segment that’s already more likely to buy what you’re selling than any other target group? Who’s speaking to your existing customers?
Speak With Existing Customers Before Looking For New Ones
Many sales processes are built on the premise of sales people should be out there finding new business opportunities, while existing customers get handed over to the internal teams.
Perhaps this was sound thinking in the days of Mad Men. But hasn’t business – and customer expectations – progressed since then?
Selling to existing customers should be 100 times easier than selling to new ones. Existing customers already know you. They trusted you enough to invest in your value offering in the past and – assuming you haven’t screwed-up – they’re more likely to buy from you again than go through the sales process with another unknown quantity.
However there’s a bigger motivation to sell to existing customers. The cost of sale is much lower.
Finding a new customer, going through “the dance”, etc. costs time and money.
Supposing, over the course of a year, you found 100 new customers as a result of your marketing efforts. However over that same timeframe, you lost 100 existing customers. Let’s say you lost those customers because there wasn’t anyone in your organization giving them attention.
What are you left with?
Sure, you have the same number of customers. However you also have much lower profit margins. The costs to acquire those new customers has eaten into your bottom-line. Your business is hurting because your marketing costs are higher than they needed to be, plus your profits are lower.
Existing Customers Are Your Business Lifeblood
It’s vital for any growing business to ensure you do whatever it takes to hang on to existing clients. Moreover, these people should be your first port of call whenever you have something new to sell.
Existing customers can help your business in other ways as well.
They can help you with market research. Their thoughts and opinions can help you shape product development, marketing communication, and sales strategy. Most customers are willing to help out with marketing initiatives such as being featured in a testimonial, or saying good things about you at a conference. Some may even be willing to refer you to their competitors. Why? Because they want you to succeed if it means they’ll get a better product / service / after sales support as a result.
Are you more interested in the thrill of chasing after prospective customers than in retaining existing client business? What are you doing to keep your existing customers yours?