Customers are feeling pressure to get more done with less, so many of them are reducing the number of companies they do business with. At the same time, companies are urging their salespeople to increase sales to present customers.
Salespeople who stay focused on the needs of customers are less likely to be unseated by special deals offered by competitors. They may also be rewarded with increased customer loyalty and repeat sales.
When conducting sales training, here are three areas you should stress salespeople focus when trying to increase sales to existing customers — along with strategies that can improve their performance in each:
Salespeople who are willing to put in the hours preparing and learning about their customers, their problems and their needs record the highest penetration.
Here are strategies for increasing penetration:
- Identify products or services the customer could buy but doesn’t. Calculate the total potential of the account by estimating what’s being bought from the competition.
- Develop a plan for expanding your pool of contacts within the account. Many managers have exclusive buying authority for their departments. Try to identify them all. Get plugged into your customer’s network and associations.
- Keep trying to add value in all of your customer contacts. The most important contribution you can give to existing customers is your knowledge and expertise. What information do you possess that can be of benefit to customers? Define value in customer terms. The possibilities of creating value are limitless: faster service, better delivery, easier ordering, unique features and benefits, etc.
- Give customers ideas on how to improve their business operations. Try to find solutions that customers may not find on their own. Everyone is struggling in this economy. You may be able to pick up ideas and techniques that can be helpful to other customers. Think in terms of solving problems for customers. Deliver customized or unique solutions that meet the customer’s special needs. Try to become the greatest information resource the customer has.
- Make customers feel they have a special relationship with you. Look behind the numbers to understand the customer’s business strategy and financial situation. What are the customer’s business growth goals? What are the biggest profit drivers and drains? How can you help customers expand their business?
- Identify your customer’s customers. How can you help your customers increase penetration with their customers? Get all the information you can on customers. Keep moving closer to them. Once they know you and are comfortable with your approach, increased sales will follow.
Developing a plan of action
It’s a good idea to consider customers as prospects and develop a plan of action for getting additional business from them.
Here are strategies to help:
- Flush out customer needs and try to determine how they’re being met now. If the business increase you want is going to competitors, it’s a good idea to come up with a meaningful differentiation. Most customers are being undeserved in some way. Many of them are in business relationships that they lack the incentive to change. They have a provider in place that has always been able to persuade them not to switch. Try to get these customers to realize that they would be better off increasing their business with you. Since you know the customer, you should be able to come up with an appealing selling approach.
- Recognize that the key to selling more to existing customers is in your after-sale support. Customers’ expectations and concerns regarding after-sale support influence their future purchasing decisions. When customers purchase a product or service, they believe they are buying more than the specific item. They usually have expectations regarding the degree of after-sales support the product or service carries with it. After-sale support determines whether they will increase future orders or switch their loyalties to another salesperson. Salespeople who increase sales to existing customers usually view after-sales support as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship.
- Let your customers know why they’re smart to increase their business with you. Customers want to feel they have made a good decision when they choose you and your products or services. The best way to keep and expand their business is to reinforce that decision over a period of time. Making an investment in building a bond with customers is critical to expanding your sales to them. If your only contact with the customer is to sell them something, you’re heading for trouble.
- Find out how customers feel about competitors who have the business you’re trying to get. What do they like or dislike about your competition? Analyzing the competition requires that you ask questions, gather information and analyze information. The purpose is to find out what you’re competing against and what you need to change to get more of the business.
- Look for ways to advance the level of trust. Today’s customers are bombarded with so much conflicting and contradictory product information, the element of trust has become the indispensable ingredient in building relationships to increase your level of sales to existing customers.
- Implement a program for growing customers as aggressively as if it were a prospecting effort. It’s a good idea to set dates by which results should be produced. Evaluate the results and decide on whatever fine-tuning and follow-through is needed. Even if you don’t produce immediate results, your efforts could serve as a deterrent to customers doing business with competitors.
Building credibility and trust
Here are seven strategies to build credibility and trust that will increase repeat sales:
- Be a true consultant for your customer. Increase your success in retaining and growing current customers by focusing your efforts on calling on the right people in the right accounts with innovative and unique ideas. Offer innovative ideas and insights. Customers are so busy dealing with their own competitive pressures that they don’t have time to discuss tired ideas. What have you learned from others customers with similar issues that can relieve your present customer’s pain immediately. Packaging these insights creatively is key to increasing your business with this customer. Talk business strategy with your customers.
- Talk results with customers. Show how your product or service can positively affect the customer’s performance. Identify the appropriate needs and create a compelling case for your solution.
- Be innovative. Increase credibility as a trusted advisor by bringing to the table innovative, highly differentiated solutions that respond to customers’ unique business challenges.
- Do your homework. Focus on both results and the relationship. New conditions demand new strategies. Know more and turn that knowledge into value. Customers want insight. Go beyond asking good questions about the customers’ situation. Before getting in front of the customer, know the answers to questions about the customer’s own customers, competitors, strengths and weaknesses.
- Focus on results and relationships. Show commitment to your customer by adding value. Conduct periodic account reviews to summarize the value you’re providing and pinpoint areas for improvement.
- Go to school on your competitors. They have never been more aggressive or more vulnerable than right now. Develop defensive strategies and points of view. Help your customers develop strategies for dealing with their competitors. Be proactive in providing advice and insight.
- View each customer’s company as a market. Focus efforts on segmenting and capturing share of this market. Leverage successes and relationships.