“Eighty percent of my business comes from existing clients.”
– A Financial Services Representative
The Issue: Developing and maintaining healthy customer relationships means that you can expect repeat business, and spin off endless chains of high-leverage, well-qualified referrals. What’s more, building on a growing customer base increases profitability by cutting front-end marketing time and costs.
What I Think
The quality of your customer relationships affects any business you may do with buyers in the future, and can determine how they feel about referring you to other potential buyers or businesses (and vice versa!).
So, to get all that right—including the part about increasing profitability–SBO’s first need to provide whatever level of customer service is appropriate to their businesses, and then understand that the post-sale period is exactly the wrong time to be taking new customers for granted.
To prevent a fatal case of Buyer’s Remorse from ruining your day, follow through with new customers in several proactive ways.
- After closing large or particularly important sales, if the product(s) cannot be delivered immediately, let buyers know how long they’ll have to wait.
- Though email and phone calls are standard customer-contact tools these days, closing a big sale is probably not the time for informal e-mail messages or letters kicked out by a computer program. Under these circumstances, many SBOs send handwritten “Thank-You” notes after closing key sales, hand-addressing the envelopes and using stamps instead of a postage meter. While you’re at it–and if it’s appropriate–mention other needs you can address in the near future.
- Keep all buyers informed about product availability and delivery. Act quickly if more time will be needed than originally thought, or if additional information has been requested. Call or email, as appropriate.
- Don’t overlook chances to communicate with customers about non-business matters. For example, you’ve spent several minutes discussing a new customer’s hobby — race walking. The next week you spot a magazine article about a local race, or recall a passage in a book you’ve read about that sport. Send a copy of the article or passage with a note, “Thought you’d want to see this!”
- If a customer has sent new business your way or personally introduced you to prospective buyers, let him or her know the results. More than courtesy, this can lead to more names and even more business.
- If the buyer also owns a business, see if you can help by referring customers or vendors, or by using his or her products or services yourself.
Follow up with customers who don’t buy, too! You won’t close every sale (have you noticed?). But, an effective follow-up mechanism as part of an automated communications system can help you stay in contact with qualified folks who didn’t buy the first time around, but who eventually may.
By collecting specific dates for follow-up contacts, you’ll soon have a sizable number of people and reasons to call again–as always, based on your customers’ timing and specific reasons for calling.
Follow-up calls represent activity, and activity leads to sales. What’s more, since people are more likely to buy from SBOs they know or know of, regular exposures of different types in your marketplace—including your Web presence–increases the likelihood of your being in the right place at the right time, for the right reasons. Changing circumstances can make people who’ve turned you down once, welcome you with open arms the next time you call–or (better yet) when they call you!
Try This: Before letting non-buyers get away, say something like this. “Well folks, I’m sorry we won’t be doing business together this time. But it may be a good idea for us to stay in touch, since you never know when something might come up. Would you mind my calling back every so often with a specific idea or product you might be able to use?”
Then, send a thank-you email or letter, as you do after successful sales.
Treat qualified prospective buyers as if they were already your customers. By adding them to your business newsletter mailing list and including them in your other customer-building activities, they may soon become loyal customers.
One of the sharpest advocates of proactive customer follow up I know is an SBO who sends computer-personalized email messages to his long list of Contacts on birthdays and anniversaries, as well as on all holidays—Labor Day included–as I learned earlier this week!
Is that over-steering? A bit, maybe, but it certainly gets his message across to everyone receiving it, and it apparently pays off for him in very big ways!
What Do You Think? Your comments are welcome. Have you registered?
Bill Willard is a freelance writer in Clearwater FL. He has been a high-impact writer and editor for over 30 years. In addition to his byline pieces, Bill’s beat includes ghostwriting and editing for businesses of all types and sizes, professional practitioners and individuals, and is a www.thefreestyleentrepreneur.com Contributing Author. Visit his Website: www.writergazette.com/WillardAssociates.shtml
Or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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