Access the Total Value of Your Client List

Access the Total Value of Your Client List 150 150 Colleen Francis

When it comes to generating sales, there’s one source that tends to get overlooked: the client list. I am constantly amazed at the number of sales professionals and companies that do nothing to encourage repeat sales, up-sales and cross-sales within their own customer list.

As I write this, many of my clients are struggling with what they can do now to ensure they finish their selling year at or above target. My message to you is this: go back to your current client list.

Repeat sales are more profitable than new sales. Why? For starters, repeat sales are faster. Your customers already like you and trust you. That’s why Chapter 10 of my book, Non-Stop Sales Boom, is completely focused on relationship building to ensure you’re capturing as many repeat sales as possible.

The sales rule of thumb is that a list loses 10 percent of its value each month of absent contact. So, 10 months of no contact with your clients means your list is worth nothing — and you might as well cold call. Relationship neglect results in many sales losses, including seduction by competitors and the loss of referrals, which over time can result in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses for your business.

Your list is as valuable as the quality of the relationship you have with those clients and their perception of that relationship. To sell more to your current clients you must transition your thinking from “customer list” to “building a relationship with my customer.”

You can create a profitable relationship with your customers using the following six components:

1. Ubiquity: Recent studies from the Information Marketing Association show that your current clients can tolerate up to 200 contacts per year before they’ll ask you to go away. But that’s only if you provide a variety of touch points. You can’t call a customer 200 times a year without landing on the do-not-call list. You can, however, call, email, mail, use LinkedIn, send them to your web page, pod cast and Youtube channel; make contact at tradeshows, conferences and networking events; do face-to-face sales calls, and use article placements in trade journals. The reason customers can withstand up to 200 touches per year is because smart sales people know it makes a difference to mix up the media types they use to contact customers.

2. Frequency: How often are you in touch with your clients? Regardless of whether 200 touches is specifically appropriate for you, don’t let the number cloud the real message: you’re likely not doing enough. In my work, most companies and sales professionals feel that if they reach out four times per year, they are stalking the client. I believe that 26 is the minimum number of touches required per year for a truly profitable relationship. Using the first component, Ubiquity, you can build strong relationships with your clients by delivering valuable information on a regular basis using a variety of media types. Once every two weeks is a good target that won’t be overwhelming to clients.

3. Consistency: All 26 touches should arrive as expected and anticipated on a regular schedule. Consider sending a monthly email, along with a monthly hard copy newsletter, at two-week intervals. You could also advertise a free monthly web or tele-class for your clients on product training or business topics complimentary to your products. Trust is built with consistent behavior over time. If you consistently and reliably deliver your message to your clients it will demonstrate you can be trusted to deliver what you said, when and how you said it. Clients don’t like surprises. They like results.

4. Trust: In order to build a trusting relationship with your clients you must maintain constant contact with them without lapse or interruption. What do you think would happen to the relationship with your spouse if you didn’t come home one night, didn’t call, didn’t email or attempt contact, and then arrived home unexpectedly three months later? When you don’t call your friends for weeks at a time, does your relationship grow stronger or weaker?

I’ve often thought that sales relationships are similar to dating. In both cases, it takes ongoing communication to build trust. If you don’t contact the person you’re seeing at regular intervals, they’ll move on to someone else. Likewise, if you neglect the clients on your list, they’ll build a relationship with someone else instead (i.e. your competitor.)

5. Appeal: Be entertaining and friendly, yet professional. Remember that all selling (B2B and B2C) is about selling to humans. Your clients want to laugh, have fun, and be entertained. (Just don’t go too far or you sacrifice your message.)

Which airlines, for example, command the most customer attention during the pre-flight safety announcements? Southwest and WestJet? Or the more traditional airlines such as American, United, Air Canada, and US Air? Southwest and WestJet have the most appeal; they’re more engaging because they make the announcements fun and friendly while still being professional.

Another step for being appealing to clients? Make sure that every contact attempt you send is worth opening, reading, and acting on. For instance, an industrial supply company recently distributed invitations for their annual charity event to all of their customers. The majority of invitees said no but dozens said yes. And many asked for a follow-up appointment to revisit their product mix and to add products.

6. Exceptional: This doesn’t mean using the best paper and the most expensive pen. It means being sure to include information, education, entertainment, and other interesting “stuff” that is relevant and valuable to your clients — delivered from an interesting person: you. Don’t just “pitch” your clients each time you reach out to them. Share interesting ideas, your favorite books on business, and your thoughts on articles they might find useful. Remember that you are a human, selling to a human.

Using the six components above as your guide, it’s now time to try the following strategies as part of your 26-touches-per-year plan:

  • Thank you card (hand written, personalized, and not on corporate stationary)
  • Publishing or sharing an article on LinkedIn
  • A case study sent in the mail
  • Weekly video tips for using your products
  • Invitations to seminars — live or on the web
  • Advertising specialties, sent as a thank-you, that your clients will want to use, such as pens, mouse pads, calendars, etc.
  • Podcasts or client interviews
  • Company anniversary cards
  • Invitations to trade shows and conferences
  • New product announcements (separately or in a newsletter)
  • Market reports or analyst reports
  • White papers

How will you know when you’ve succeeded in accessing the total value of your client list? When your customers routinely go to you first instead of to other providers. And when they readily refer you to others. This will, in turn, create more sales, more acceptance of regular communication with them, and more action on your promotions and offers.