Your previous customer base should always be your most important target. Sales is a relationship business. We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to develop relationships with people we don't know while we ignore relationships which already exist. With our previous customers we have already expended a tremendous amount of energy and done much right:
- We have made a contact;
- We have converted a lead;
- We have delivered a valuable service.
Why start over and over again, making cold calls when you can be building upon these relationships? There is nothing less stressful than repeat business from a previous customer or a personal referral from the same. We start the sales process with an element of trust which we have to earn when dealing with cold leads.
To take advantage of these relationships, we cannot assume that referred business will walk in the door. We must nurture these relationships, letting them grow. We can't do this by keeping in touch once every three years when our business is slow. We must be in touch constantly. And we can't be in touch using sticky notes. Sticky notes do not constitute an effective follow-up system. Here are a few elements which will help us build a first class follow-up system for our previous customers.
1. Computerized Contact Management Systems
Yes, to effectively keep in touch you must have a computer with a database and contact management software. The database must have relevant information about your clients (for example, when did they purchase and what are their preferences?). The contact management function must record your previous conversations so that you are always up-to-date. When you speak to the customer once every year, it is hard to remember all of the relevant details of your previous conversation. On the other hand, if you start out with a question such as "How is that Camaro Running?," the customer knows that you cared enough to remember something about them which further elevates the level of trust.
The contact management system should also group customers according to categories which will help you target certain segments of your database. It should also let you know when important dates are approaching through an alarm system. Each day, your computer should let you know with whom you should be making a follow-up phone call or sending another form of communication.
2. Personal Value
You must provide value to your database on a regular basis. Letters are not valuable (though letters may contain offers of value). Newsletters, articles and other information are extremely valuable if they are targeted to your clients' needs. So are offers for other professional services which may enhance the lives of your clients.
3. Third Party Value
Sending a communication that offers something of value provided by another party serves two purposes. It diversifies the value that you can offer. It also provides value to the other party through the provision of access to your customers via a partnership. Of course, you would expect reciprocity from them. In other words, you can now increase the size of your database to include the contacts of additional partners.
4. Response Mechanisms
Do not merely send the value. Offer to send the value in a newsletter or letter. This will cause your customers to call to request the item offered. Every telephone conversation is an opportunity to fill needs for your clients and also ask for additional referrals. Calling a thousand customers to determine which one has a need is much more difficult than using a response mechanism so that they selectively call you when they have a need. Of course, follow-up calls to those who do not respond can be more effective than a call that is not warmed up by such an offer.
5. Special Events
Special events for your personal clients are a great way to follow with several of them at once. Perhaps you could hold a seminar on a topic with a synergy marketing partner. Remember, this event is not merely to sell but to provide value. Allow them to invite a guest. You might hold a holiday party or rent a movie theater for a special showing of a first-run movie. The possibilities are endless.
Keeping in touch is just the first step. If you do not have a database of your previous customers, you will be prevented from taking the first step. The key is providing value to your previous customers on a regular basis so that your relationship is continually upgraded. It sure beats cold calls!