Posts belonging to Category Service Strategies

5 Random Acts to Lock Down Your Best Customers!

5 Random ActsYour relationship with your spouse or significant other is a focal point in your life. You are familiar with them, and they know you, yet you are wise enough (if you are smart) to constantly show how you feel and at the same time hold up your end of the relationship by doing the perfunctory tasks like paying bills, keeping up the residence, and providing income and services for the family.


You do thoughtful things like bring home flowers, prepare a special meal, present small, thoughtful gifts and keep yourself in the mind and the heart of that special person.

This is what you need to do for your best clients as well. You need to do your job and at the same time do unanticipated acts that show them they are the focus of your efforts.

This sounds corny, but give it some thought.  So many sales professionals look for the new sale, and forget that your best future customers are your current customers.  The current customer’s tendency to by new products, sign-on for subsequent years, and give good referrals to people looking for your product makes your customer a valuable asset even past helping to increase your income.

The 5 Random Acts

Customer retention is important in any sales operation.  Those sales professionals who have solid customer retention are going to experience higher sales and more consistent earnings, along with more opportunities for growth.  Black sales professionals need to “wall off” their most important customers even more vigorously than other professionals: BSJ 4/11/2011-“Wall Off” Your Most Important Customers shows us some ways to do it.

As stated before, and no different than any interpersonal relationship, this is your chance to stay in front of your customer.  Here are some ways how:

  • Small thoughtful gifts
  • Cards and letters
  • Refer some of your other customers to your customer when possible – and let the customer who is the beneficiary know it
  • Business entertainment w/your upper management
  • Share relevant clippings and articles from web and print – with a note

Small Thoughtful Gifts – These gifts should be inexpensive, and in good taste designed to show thought.  Example – Buying a customer a $12.00 frame that will house the picture of him/her and you at the latest outing, fishing trip, etc.  This works, and the customer will not toss the frame, or re-gift it usually if the picture is in the frame.  Know your companies gift policy and check this out: BSJ – Entertainment and Gift Giving Etiquette 11/17/2011

Cards and letters – Almost a lost art, but extremely effective and quite inexpensive.  Use very good stationary and cards, and read how it is most effective here: BSJ – Make Yourself Memorable 2/3/2011

Refer your other customers to this customer – The key is to let him know it.  Make sure that you get your mileage from it.  There is nothing more of an endorsement for your customer than for you to send some of your other valued relationships to them.  Have them call your customer contact directly, and advise them to ‘drop’ your name in the first line of the conversation.

Business entertainment with your company leadership – You may not consider it a treat to ‘break bread’ with your company’s management that often, but you would be amazed at how this brings your customer closer to your organization.  Customers love the attention, and in most organization’s the policies require that the management pick up the tab in stead of you.  Don’t under estimate this one as it can help to lock-up the customer, and endear you to management as well. Check this one out - BSJ – Is Your Sales Manager Managing? 10/17/2011

Share relevant clippings and articles from web and print – with a note – Show the customer that you are thinking about him/her frequently by sharing important information about products, economics, the marketplace and other information from the web, or print.  Keep them informed or someone else will.  Be the expert, and anticipate the client’s need for information.

Strengthening the Bond

Why are these effective?  This one is simple:  They strengthen the relationship.  Remember that in sales ‘relationships are everything’.  It is obviously a topic that I cover often in Black Sales Journal and is discussed further in BSJ – Revisited – Deepening Your Customer Relationships 11/11/2011.

Take a moment to put some of these suggestions to the test.  Strengthen the bond and deepen the relationship, then reap the benefits.  You cannot lose if you do.

Always master the relationship!

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Too Afraid to Ask Your Customer for Feedback?

Customer Feedback

You are a sales professional who labors to give the best in service to your customers.  The best in service means being responsive, innovative, and creative when it comes to your customers business needs.

Your retention of customers is good, and your acquisition of new customers is solid as well.  So what is missing?

Most sales professionals do not ask their customers “how am I doing?” and “what can I do better?”


Why it is important?

This one might be simpler to explain than you might believe.  Sometimes we forget that asking questions does more than just generate a response.

Asking those questions does the following in the customers eyes:

  • Shows a sincere desire to give the best service possible.
  • Opens the feedback channel to allow someone who appreciates you to get what they may be missing in a relationship.  It promotes communication.
  • Shows confidence in the relationship by allowing constructive criticism in the quest for continuous improvement.
  • Opens a window to what aspects of service, responsiveness, and fulfillment are most important, and allows you to focus on these.
  • Sets up that next conversation in 6 months or a year where you ask again and get the positive feedback that you are doing all that has been asked.

You may ask for feedback in your relationships and marriage, and you may ask for feedback from your employer (in the form of a performance review), yet most often we make the assumption that our relationships with customers, especially those with longevity, are solid and rewarding.  Sometimes you need to make certain.

Your customer will feel privileged that you are asking, and will sense your sincerity.  It will create a bond that will help you when your other sales advantages, such as price or product superiority, disappear.

How to do it?

This is very easy, yet will come with some degree of surprise to many customers.  Why?  Because so few sales professionals ever ask the question.

I would suggest that this be done during an in-person meeting, one-on-one with the buyer for the first meeting.

Here is a simple suggested format:

  • Ask the customer what attributes of a sales professional are most important to his/her operation. This could be responsiveness, communications, credibility, or many other strengths.
  • After getting them on paper, ask him to help you rank them in descending order (the most important attributes get a 1, and least important gets the highest number).  You really should be looking for the top 5 or less, as those are the most important.
  • Now, have him help you rank your performance against those attributes. Use a simple A-Excellent, B-Good, C-Average, D-Below Average, F- Failing.  Rank each one, and if there are areas that you have not done, they can be incomplete.

The last bullet above will be the “moment of truth” as it will tell you what the customer perceives.  No matter how well you believe you are doing, this is important!  It is actually the point of origin of your continuous improvement program, or confirmation that you are a solid sales professional who should look to maintain your efforts along with some incremental improvement.

This does not need to be any more difficult than this.  You are opening a window or door to communication that will make more concrete your relationship with your customer.

The Manager’s Role in Customer Feedback

Managers should always feel comfort having this type of discussion with the customers of their sales professionals.  It won’t have the depth of the comments above, yet is should be designed to get meaningful input regarding the customers sentiments about the performance of their sales professional.

When I say it will not have the depth, I mean that it is difficult for the manager to get the level of feedback that the sales professional could get.  The manager’s role is to get some feedback regarding whether the professional is doing a good job and “taking care of the customer,”

With major customers, it should be expected, and it should be done with a sampling of smaller customers.  The result of asking is the same as above…you get ‘points’ for asking.  The objective is to make sure that the customer is being given good service.

Here is an example of how this can be done:

“Mr. Johnson, I am Rick’s sales manager here at ABC Corp.  I wanted to introduce (or reintroduce) myself and ask how everything is going in your relationship with our company?”  “How is Rick doing in taking care of your companies needs?”  Note here that this question must be an open probe.  It should result in conversation and not a yes or a no.

The responses start the conversation, and this should be a fairly short conversation.

Where Do You Go From Here?

I would make the following suggestions as to how you go about this activity:

  • I would start with customers who you already have open communications with.  It will allow you to hone your process.
  • I would do it with every customer that you feel is important.
  • Always follow-up and practice continuous improvement.  Correct the issues and you will have a customer for life.
  • Do it once a year on average.
  • No matter how uncomfortable, or how much you modify, do it!  Initially, it will get you a better rapport with your important customers.

Give it a try and see the difference it makes in your business relationship.

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