You can make competitors work harder and prevent sales losses.
You’ve worked hard to close the deal. Now you have new business. It’s business you want to keep for a long time. Too many salespeople think the sale is over when the customer agrees to buy. Your sale is not over. More sales work continues if you want to keep your business and prevent sales losses.
Continue to sell.
You may think your business is safe for a while because it’s hard for a customer to change to a new suppler when he just recently changed suppliers. Your business is not safe. Yes, it certainly would be difficult for a customer to make another change, but it isn’t impossible. Never underestimate the anger of a disappointed, unhappy customer.
A customer can always go back to the previous supplier. A customer who is unable to meet his production or other goals because of you or your product’s deficiencies will start to look for another supplier. Very few customers will accept mediocrity.
Right after the sale is the time to set reasonable customer expectations instead of thinking your work is over. Have a discussion with your customer so you can confirm your customer’s expectations for your work and your products. It’s always helpful to uncover unreasonable customer expectations so you can explain why they can’t be delivered and what you can do instead to meet the need. Once you’ve confirmed your customer’s expectations, you can deliver them.
Get ingrained in your customer’s business.
All too often a salesman has one point of entry into an account. He is able to sell to that person. While the resulting sale is a good thing, only maintaining contact with one person is a vulnerability.
A better strategy to keep your business is to focus on three levels of your customer’s business and three people at each level. The more people you know makes it easier for you to learn what your customers like about your work and products and what they don’t. You’ll also hear about problems they’re experiencing so you, not a competitor, get the first opportunity to solve them.
Don’t think you are safe if your point of contact is the company owner or CEO. I’ve seen senior people defer to subordinates on their preferences. Even if the CEO disagreed, he wanted to “keep his people happy” and went with a different supplier. The more people you know and who like you, the less vulnerable you are.
Remember that new hires at your customers are very important people. They bring new ideas to your customer. They can also bring the idea of using your competitor’s products. Be sure to meet and get to know new hires at your customer so you start to build strong working relationships with them, too.
Know your competition and what they’re doing.
I’ve spoken with salespeople who think it’s unimportant for them to know much about their competition. I am not suggesting that you spend all your time researching everything you can about your competitors. I am suggesting that you know who are your biggest competitors. You should know their strengths and weaknesses and who they are selling to. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the competition. Your competitors are not standing still. They want your business! You have to be aware of what their tactics are so you avoid becoming vulnerable to them as they try to steal your business.
There are benefits to implementing these three strategies. You build strong customer relationships based on delivering customer value that is difficult to overcome. Your competitors will have to look elsewhere for new business and not at your accounts.