With the end of the first quarter approaching, there’s a bit of blog verbiage going around focusing on giving your client base a good Spring cleaning. While I couldn’t agree more, and have written about it myself, let’s change things up, shall we?
Perhaps the best Spring cleaning should start with YOU. Regarding the types of customers you want to acquire.
If your customer base seems a bit stagnant, problematic, risk averse, tight on their money and liberal on their criticism, even unchallenging and downright boring, perhaps they are not the type of kids you should be playing with anyway.
Have you ever asked yourself why are you so attracted to these types of customers in the first place? Do some of these scenarios sound familiar?
- I prospect by geography and locale. I call on everyone in the zip code and within my territory. As long as I can get an appointment, or find someone to speak with, it’s all good with me.
- I’ve had some success with several types of business segments. So I create lists of these same types of businesses and call on them, one after another. Sure, in some areas they all know each other and compete with each other. It’s all business to me.
- I know I can help these types of customers. Many of them are just starting out and don’t have big budgets. So I start small and hope I can upsell them later. I end up giving them more of an uncompensated consulting type of relationship in addition to the services I sell. I hope this will be perceived as valuable when it comes to renewal.
- I have to fill my quarterly quota. I’ll sell to anyone who wants to buy. Period. I meet my quota each quarter, but I have a 25% non-renewal rate each year that I have to compensate for the following year.
The above scenarios have a really short-term focus don’t they? Selling, in these scenarios, has a 12-month horizon before the sales person starts all over again.
While many subscription service sales run in annual increments, perhaps you need to think about how to create a loyal customer base that engages your services year after year. Let’s face it, your customers will never think of you in longer than 12-month increments if you serve them with a 12-month mindset.
You know what that looks like: It’s strictly transactional. Low maintenance. A few phone calls or customer service appointments in between renewals.
You are always wishing and hoping they will renew at the end of each year.
The types of services you have sold your customers are “safe”, unremarkable, not collaborative, ho-hum. They are better than no services at all to your customers. Which is why your renewal status is always up in the air each year. You are easily displaced because you have commoditized yourself.
Which gets back to why you want to play with these kinds of customers in the first place. Either you are complacent, lazy, uninspired, or simply need to pull your head out of the sand and take a good look around at all the companies out there who might truly value your deliverables.
Of course, doing business with these other types of “kids” may involve doing a bit more homework and being far more knowledgeable, creative and collaborative about industry segment as opposed to your product. It may mean selling horizontally across business and industry segments than selling vertically within one or two segments. It may mean perceiving your customers as being individuals instead of a homogeneous glom of prospects.
It may mean changing your mindset and crawling out of the sales rut you are in, and identifying a customer as someone you want to do your best work for.
What does that look like, to you?
Babette Ten Haken provides technical people and other sellers a solid strategy for how to explain a product, its benefits, and its value in ways that buyers can easily understand and sellers can comfortably present. She gets people together who are often on opposite sides of the table, like engineers and sales people or entrepreneurs and investors. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, works with entrepreneurs, start-ups & investors, as well as small businesses and manufacturers, focusing on revenue-generating and portfolio-building business development strategies. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? was named 2012 Finalist, Top Sales & Marketing Awards.