“Wall Off” Your Most Important Customers

Business HandshakeSales professionals know that after the tortuous process of winning customers, account-by-account, it would be literally sinful to have your competitors wrest them from you.  There is truth to that, yet with it comes the fact that the only way that you can keep it from happening is to have a product that no one else offers.  Very few of you are fortunate enough to be able to say that.

As difficult as the process of retaining customers can be, it is a luxury that others would be envious of.  The objective is to have that process be filled with relationship building, as well as experience sharing, coupled with unmatched service.  As far as your competitors, it will make the act of robbing you of your income and your customer so much more difficult.

Most Black sales professionals are working so hard to achieve general acceptance and get past the issues that constitute preference and perception that they are glad for the victory when they reach that goal.  Strengthening the relationship in the following ways could be the difference between being a good sales professional and being a ‘star’ sales performer.

Building that Wall Block by Block

Building that wall is a process.  Whether you are in B2B or B2P, the process is very similar.  Here are some of the main attributes:

  • Make the buying experience memorable
  • Master the Relationship
  • Give unparalleled service
  • Expose them to vertical relationships
  • Treat them to horizontal relationships
  • Give Recognition – Nominate them for Acclaim
  • Communicate
  • Call in Favors

Don’t think for a moment that relationship building is easy.  It is however the forte’ of the best sales professionals.  Why not you?

Make The Buying Experience Memorable – You cannot just win, you have to look good in doing so.  Gaining the account in the face of strong competition is great.  Winning because you are what the customer needs creates a value that others might not have.  If all else is equal, and you win because the customer perceives that his organization is better off because you are the expert that they need (BSJ – 12/20 Your Customer Needs an Expert) you can now begin the process of securing other sides to the structure you are building.  Being the Consummate Professional (BSJ – 3/7 Be the Consummate Professional) throughout the buying process is just as important.  Buyers may buy for a number of reasons, yet the composite is that they got a great value.  Part of that value is you.

Master the RelationshipYou will need to excel in the relationship.  As stated in BSJ January 13th and January 20th, Deepening Your Customer Relationship 1&2, your job is to be the expert on this customer.  Establish a customer profile, and work it.  Know the buyer’s family, and his or her most important preferences.  Achieve the level of a  “business friend”, and “business consultant”, during the workday and a social acquaintance during off hours.  This constructs walls that generate a preference all their own.

Give Unparalleled Service – We have talked about giving unparalleled service before in BSJ (Black Sales Journal 1/13 – Deepening Your Customer Relationships).  It will separate you from the other sales professionals.  Remember, this is about being responsive.  Solid follow-up is at the heart of this one.  Do what you say you are going to do; by when you say you are going to do it.

Expose them to Vertical Relationships You may shutter at this one because you shield your accounts from management, yet it works in a way that cannot be duplicated.  Your confidence as the quarterback will allow you to introduce them to your organizations upper, and in some cases top management.  They will not only feel important, they will feel privileged.  Arrange for them to meet the highest level you can muster.  Lunch or Dinner (if appropriate) could serve as solid forums to give them the feel they need for the organization.  Even a meeting in the office works.   The more important people you clients “know” the better off you are at their time of need.

Expose them to Horizontal and External Relationships The horizontal relationships can be enriching as well.  Your service team, your sales assistant, and anyone else who helps you make it happen.  I also include in this your ability to include introductions to key accounts that have a like interest in business pursuits including suppliers, Chamber sand other membership groups, etc.  Be the resource that no one else can be for them.  Break the ice for them in relationships with other “like thinking” customers of yours that could benefit them, and build your wall.  They could increase their profits because of you.

Give them Recognition Sometimes, recognition can go a long way.  An honor bestowed in the form of a luncheon for a customer’s management staff, and a $40.00 plaque can go a long way toward locking them in.  Sincerity in this award is important; yet even more important is doing it correctly.  Be there in person and give some amount of notoriety.  If covered correctly by their newsletter, you might be surprised how far it will go.  In your customer’s mundane world of supplying nuts and bolts, to be recognized as an innovator in warehousing, logistics, safety, and other notable areas is a proud moment.

Communicate, Communicate, And CommunicateYou are never at a risk of over communicating.  Communicate early and often, monitoring your communications by summarizing and reducing it to writing.  Give bad news as early as you have it confirmed, and give your good information with the same pattern.  You will be rewarded with credibility, credibility, and more credibility.

Call In Favors – If there was ever some one to do if for, your best customers are it.  Call in favors for your best customers when necessary.  This means you need make sure that when you need it, you have the “capital” in your operation to get something done for your best customers whether it is exceptions or pricing influence.

The Best Value

If you do all of these things, it will represent the best value imaginable for your customer.  The customer will have an engaged, resourceful sales professional.  You will have a client who will always be a  “hard target” for any other sales professional to pick off.  You will need to be competitive, but not always low in price.  You will need a good product, yet not necessarily the industry leader.

The best is that so much of this focuses on you, the sales professional.  Over time, this is almost all about you.

Thanks for reading Black Sales Journal.  We welcome your comments

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