I’ve got someone in my wider network who only called me every couple of years when they were looking for their next job. To begin with I was fine about it. Of course I’d have a chat and see if I could help them. But soon I realised it was a one-way street.
The same thing applies to the relationship between customers and the sales people who supply them, and the use of the word ‘relationship’ is deliberate here. There’s a risk that sales people only call when they need something.
Think of your top ten customers. How often do you call them other than when you aren’t looking to sell them anything? If the answer’s ‘never’ or ‘hardly ever’ then what do does that say about how they might see your ‘relationship’?
I’m not suggesting you stop selling to them, or even that you make fewer sales calls. But what I am saying is that it’s important to be there for them when you don’t need them. In a balanced relationship there is give and take. Value is added on both sides.
This type of approach requires planning, and skilled execution:
- Planning - If you don’t schedule these calls, they won’t happen, because you’ll always be too busy.
- Skilled execution – what are you going to talk about? Most customers are too busy to just ‘chat’, so there’s got to be more to it than that. The call might be:
- To see how they’re getting on with your product
- Do they have any questions about it?
- Sharing some insight, something you’ve read that you’re going to send them, or an idea you’ve had that might help them.
- Or it could be you want to find out how some new initiative or project is going at their end. If they’ve told you previously they’ve won an exciting new contract, how cool would it be if you called them to ask how it’s going?
However you do it, your best customers will appreciate that you are interested in them, and don’t just see them as someone you can sell to.
Great conversations lead to exciting places. Do this well, and watch as your customers become more loyal, the opportunities appear and your pipeline steadily improves!
By Andy Coughlin, who works with international blue chip companies in the UK, US, Europe and Middle East. He delivers progams that enable clients to perform better under pressure, in the areas of sales and customer service.