Paul provides valuable tips for conducting a productive annual review with your existing customers.
Your customers are busy with other priorities. So, it’s critical that you remind them of the value you provided over the past year.
Part of your annual review must be to reexamine their needs and ensure that you will meet those needs in the next year.
Be prepared to share your knowledgeable expertise of your organization’s new products and services. Plant the seeds of how these new products will help your customers in the coming year.
Ask your customers a series of “tinkering” questions to reveal new ways you can create value for them.
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How do I conduct year-end customer reviews?
(Transcribed from podcast)
We are going to get into how to conduct year-end reviews with customers here in just a moment. But, first of all, I wanted to thank The Q and A Sales Podcast community. The podcast continues to grow; people continue to submit questions on the website, so thank you for all of your support and I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas as well. I know this time of year is always filled with great events, family time, and I hope you’re able to really connect with the people that mean the most to you in your life during this time of year. So, Merry Christmas to everyone.
So let’s get back to the show: How do I conduct year-end customer reviews?
In Value-Added Selling, we have an entire chapter dedicated to value reinforcement, and I’m going to mention that term quite a bit throughout today’s program. But this is a great time to pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. Again, we have an entire chapter dedicated to value reinforcement and what these reviews should look like. So, I would encourage you to pick up your copy. It’s available wherever you download your books.
You can also pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. It’s a perfect time of year to really ramp up for next year. So now is the time to pick it up. You can pick up that book wherever you get your books, including Barnes & Noble. Actually, my Dad, the other day, was at a Barnes & Noble with my nephews and he saw a picture of the book and he snapped it and sent it over to me. So if you happen to be in the St. Louis area, there’s a signed edition at the Barnes & Noble at the West County Mall. So pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times and Value-Added Selling.
But again, let’s get back to it. How do I conduct customer reviews? So, the review process is critical. Number one, it’s a chance for you to sit down with your existing customers and have a good, open, honest dialogue about your company, how you serve that customer throughout the year, some of the value that you’ve created as well. And so, I would encourage every salesperson, if you are not doing it right now, schedule an annual review with your customers. Have a business review.
Now, during this business review it’s critical that you reinforce the value that you’ve delivered throughout the year. As most people are unaware of the air they breathe, most customers are unaware of the value they receive. Customers lose sight of all the value you’ve created, mainly because they have other priorities. They don’t wake up every morning and think, “Oh wow, what did my supplier do for me yesterday?” Or “How did that company help support me six months ago? I’m going to reflect on that.” No, they don’t do that. They forget about it. It’s not that they’re trying to forget about it, but they just have other priorities. Other things come up. And not only that, your customers become accustomed to the value that you’re delivering. They start to expect it. Today’s exception becomes tomorrow’s expectation, and so they start to take it for granted.
Now, this is a big problem and here’s why. If our customers forget about the value that we’ve delivered, it’s like it never happened. And if it never happened, all of a sudden, price becomes a bigger issue, because price is only an issue in the absence of value. Now, whether that absence is real or perceived, it does not matter because the customer doesn’t see the value. So we need to remind them and reinforce that value.
Here’s a few things I would consider. A simple thank-you card—a simple thank-you note highlighting some of the value that you’ve delivered throughout the year. That’s critical. I love cost-savings reports or project-savings reports. So, when you’re sitting down with a customer, I would look at some key scenarios. These could be how you help them save on overall cost, or it could be project specific. What you’re trying to do is you want to document how you’ve helped them save money, whether it’s through labor savings, extending the life of their equipment, maintenance savings, efficiencies gained. You want to document on paper those scenarios throughout the year, and you want to share that with your customer. It’s putting the value that you’ve delivered on paper and it becomes real. It’s more tangible.
Not only that, these are resources for your customer. Because your contact, the person you’re meeting with, will likely have an annual performance review, or they’re going to need to talk to their boss about how they created value within the company throughout the year. You’re giving them tools and ideas to go back and share. And in fact, I remember one year we were working with a company that sells industrial belting. They were able to document cost savings that they shared with the procurement manager. And then that procurement manager mentioned that at their annual review and that was one of the reasons that individual got a significant raise. So, we want to document that value.
Also is where it’s helpful to conduct customer satisfaction surveys. Satisfaction surveys are critical because it puts on paper how you performed. And you can share the results with your customers. It’s reinforcement to them that they’ve partnered with the right company. So again, value reinforcement is critical. We want to make that a big part of our annual business review.
The next part of the review should focus on moving forward. When you’re working with your customer, ask them, “Hey, what are some of your goals for 2024? How have your needs changed since we initially started working together? What’s changed in your business in the past six months? How’s it going to affect the first two quarters of next year?” So, again, what we want to do is ask questions just to review our customer’s needs to ensure that we’re still providing the best overall solution for our customers. So have an in-depth needs discussion.
Now also, this is where you’ve got to plant seed. My brother-in-law, he’s in the sod business. In the fall, they plant their seeds so they can have a good spring. Right now, for salespeople, you need to plant seeds as well, so you have something to harvest moving into next year. So I would start familiarizing yourself with your company’s new products or services you plan to launch in the next year. New models of either software, equipment, whatever it is you’re selling. Figure out what new offerings you have and begin planting seeds with your customer. Mention it. Talk about how this new solution more comprehensively satisfies their needs or how it can help them perform at a new level. We want to do this now while we have a captive customer. Think about it. We’ve just taken some time to sit down, we’ve reviewed our value, we’ve discussed their needs. Now let’s start making some recommendations into next year.
Now, the final piece, and this is critical, in Value-Added Selling we call this tinkering. We need to ask a series of tinkering questions. Tinkering questions will reveal new ways that you can create value for your customer. My favorite question is this: “What’s missing from our solution?” Now, most salespeople don’t ask this question because they don’t want to hear the answer. I guarantee you, your competition is asking your customer, “Hey, what’s missing from XYZ Company,” and what they’re doing is they’re trying to find gaps. I’d much rather find the gap before my competition does. So ask that question, figure out what’s missing, and then you can work on closing that gap.
Well, that is today’s episode. Again, Merry Christmas to all of you. I hope you have a great season and I hope you have a strong ‘24 as well. So, Happy New Year to you. Enjoy this time with your family and friends and those people that mean the most to you.
Make it a big day.