How much time do you or your sales staff spend looking for new prospects rather than developing a stronger relationship with your best clients?
At this point I typically hear “I’ve already gotten my current clients to buy, it’s time to move on to the next prospect!”
OK, but how do you get that next prospect?
There’s newspaper advertising, cold calling, networking, trade shows, radio, TV, the list goes on and on.
Asking current clients for qualified referrals.
A few months ago, I was talking to a business owner whose company had serviced the Hampshire community for more than 50 years.
He spent nearly an hour discussing the difficulties of identifying and landing new business in today’s market. He informed me that the yellow pages aren’t as effective as they used to be, most print advertising doesn’t work and that most salespeople were terrible at finding new leads.
After he was finished, I asked him if he provided his customers with a good service/product.
He was proud to say that he did, and also mentioned that he had between 175 and 200 current customers. In addition, he hadn’t received a complaint for any reason in more than 6 months.
The next question I asked would tell me what I really wanted to know, and what I probably already knew. I asked him if he asked current customers for more business or for referrals.
He explained that he was much too busy taking care of current orders and managing his sales staff to bother his current customers with that type of request.
So he has 200 satisfied customers that took him years to find, and he thinks that the best way to grow his business is to continue working on strategies that he already admits don’t work very well?
I explained to him that it would make more sense to go and ask those satisfied customers if they wouldn’t mind helping him find a new client.
Haven’t you earned the right to ask after years of great service?
For the first time during our meeting he was silent. Although a little embarrassed, he admitted that I was right.
In the bestselling book, The Power of Focus the authors recommend the following steps to growing your business:
- Create a list of your most valuable ‘core clients.’
- Take a close look at this list and review the amount of time you spend with these people. Is it sufficient? Do you enjoy quality time with them, or just a few seconds on the telephone?”
So, how do you identify and stay in touch with these core clients?
- Determine the characteristics of your best clients. These clients typically bring you the most business (and profit), appreciate your product/service, regularly refer you to others and are strategically related to your target market.
- Compile a simple strategy for keeping in touch with these clients. This will include a phone call, lunch, stopping buy to visit their staff, etc. The key is making sure that you have regular and meaningful contact – tickets to the big game every 6 months aren’t good enough. Remember, the stronger these relationships and the more satisfied these core clients are, the better and more qualified referrals will be.
- Once you are satisfied that you have adequately developed a solid relationship with your clients, it is time to ask for that referral. Don’t just send them an email or mention it in passing! Remember, you have earned the right (through the delivery of a good product/service) to ask for this referral. Schedule a meeting to talk about your request and remember to be specific about the perfect candidate for your services.
Now, I am not saying that prospecting is a bad idea. Every business needs new customers and prospecting has to be a key component in your growth strategy.
But, before you hire a new salesperson or send out another direct mail piece, make sure that you have a solid strategy for developing meaningful relationships with your best customers. These relationships will result in your most qualified and profitable prospects.
I encourage you to spend the next few minutes thinking about your best customers. Who are they? And more importantly, when is the last time you spoke to them? Start your list today!