Paul shares three tips to spice things up and create more value for your best customers.
If your customer relationship feels like a marriage heading the wrong way, you have to listen to this episode.
Salespeople get complacent. Complacent sellers rarely see ways to improve their end-to-end experience.
Embrace a positive sense of insecurity and productive discomfort with the status quo. Develop fresh ideas to serve your best customers even better. Because your best customers are the competition’s best prospects.
Try selling against yourself. How would your competition poke holes in your solution? Answering this question reveals opportunities to improve.
Ask the customer, up and down the organization, how you can improve and get better. Customers have a funny way of knowing what they really want. Give them a chance to tell you.
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How do I spice things up with existing customers?
(Transcribed from podcast)
Today’s question comes all the way from the Netherlands. Mark is a sales leader with an organization that manufactures different material, natural-type material. So here’s Mark’s question.
Mark said that he has a customer. It’s a customer that they’ve had for many years. They are an important customer, however, over the years there’ve been some changes in their management. The owner of that company is starting to become more distant, meaning, they don’t really have a close relationship with the owner of the company. They’ve reached out to him several times, but really haven’t had much happen; no reaction, no meeting anything.
This company is constantly having to retrain and reacclimate new personnel with their solution. And they’re having to do this over and over again. And what Mark is saying is that it’s starting to feel like a, like a marriage that has taken the wrong turn. So the question is how can we spice things up? And I think that’s a great question, “How you can spice up those existing relationships you have with long term customers?”
Before we get into that question, quick shout-out to our sponsor, Andrea, at The Creative Impostor Studios. Andrea loves podcasting. In fact, she has her own podcast. I was recently on the podcast. I’ll have a link to that episode on our website, but if you’re wanting to start a podcast, you’re curious about it, you just need some information. Maybe you want to get your story out there, maybe you want to give it a try, reach out to Andrea and her team. They can help you.
Also, make sure you pick up your latest addition of Value-Added Selling. In fact, there’s going to be a whole section of the book that I will reference throughout today’s podcast, which is all about defensive selling and how you can spice things up. So it’s available wherever you get your books. Amazon is probably the easiest. Again, interesting that Amazon is one of our biggest sellers of the book and we have a whole chapter in the book dedicated to selling against Amazon.
So, let’s get right back into that question: How do you spice up a relationship that you have with an existing customer? We know how it is. I know how it is. In sales, you get comfortable, right? You get comfortable with a customer, a customer whose business you’ve had for a number of years. Let’s say that the customer is overall happy with the level of service you’re providing. They don’t need much support. They’ve kind of figured everything out it. These are those really profitable customers that are also the competition’s best prospects. And so we’ve got to remember that there’s going to be another salesperson and another company that is going in there trying to steal that business. So, we do have to spice things up. We have to keep things fresh and I’m going to give you three ideas on today’s podcast to help you spice things up.
First things first. You have to have a productive discomfort with the status quo. We all fall into that trap of complacency, and Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, famously said that success breeds complacency, complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive. So in that case, we also need to maintain that productive discomfort with the status quo. We need to embrace that positive sense of insecurity. We have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. We have to be willing to try new things. And one way to do that is to sell against yourself.
I remember in a training seminar a couple of years ago, we’re working with a salesperson and he admittedly said, “Hey, I got complacent with one of my top customers and I almost lost that customer. I wasn’t trying to lose their business. I wasn’t trying to be complacent. The problem is I keep calling on the same customer. I see the same people all the time. I walk in, I ask the same questions. I just can’t think of any new ways that I can re-create value.”
And so he said, “Whenever I feel like I’m completely complacent, I bring in one of my colleagues. I ask a colleague to make a joint sales call with me. And I tell that colleague, I say, “Hey, look. The reason you’re here today is to sell against me. I want you to pretend that you work for the competition. And then when we go into this opportunity, I want you to, I want you to view the world through the eyes of our competitors. Poke holes in my solution. Try to figure out ways that we’re underserving or not taking care of this customer. And each time you find one of those new ways, it represents an opportunity for us to get better.” That’s one way we have a productive discomfort with the status quo.
Another idea, follow your end-to-end experience with that particular customer. Mark, I want you to think of this customer. Think about your end-to-end process with them: the ordering process, the customer service experience process, whatever it might be. And I want you to follow each step along the way, I want you to identify ways that you can improve. Ways that you can get better.
I’ll give you another example of this. We worked with another company that designs and manufactures custom hosing assemblies. And one salesperson said, “I had an existing customer who had some complaints. In fact, the big complaint was that they place their orders early on in the morning, yet they weren’t getting processed in a timely fashion.” And here’s what he found out. He said, “I simply walked through each step of the process with my customer, what they’re doing and then what we’re doing on our end.” And what they found out is that when an order would print in their office—the customer submitted an order. That order was placed at the bottom of the pile. Now, all the other orders that came after that were then placed on top. And so if you think about it, you get the visual in your mind of orders printing off of a printer. And as soon as an order is printed, it’s placed on a pile. Well, that means every order that was later on after that customer’s initial order became the first order that was processed. This was a simple fix. This is something that the salesperson identified as an opportunity to tinker and to get better.
So again, that first tip: have a productive discomfort with the status quo. That means you’re always looking for ways to improve and enhance. You can do that by selling against yourself, and also, following your end-to-end experience. Look internally and audit what you’re doing.
Next thing you want to do, conduct a barrier analysis. Mark, when you look at your existing customer, there’s got to be something that you can improve on, something that your company can get better. Mark, what I would do is I would sit down with your team that is involved in managing this customer and ask yourself this question, “What it is the ideal end-to-end customer experience for this customer. It’s okay if you allow yourself to dream up what that ideal end-to-end experience is going to look like. Then ask yourself and ask your team, “Okay. What is getting in the way of delivering that perfect end-to-end experience? That ideal experience?” What you’re doing is you’re conducting a barrier analysis. You’re identifying all the things that get in the way of helping that customer, of creating a better experience. And by doing all of these things, right, you’re going to become better. You’re going to look for ways to improve and to enhance. That’s going to help you deliver that world-class experience
Now, doing this repeatedly is going to create a higher level of satisfaction with your customer and also creating a better experience is going to lead to better results. And that’s, that’s what we’re going for, right? Cause as you mentioned in your question, you’re trying to get in front of that owner. We’ll talk about how you can bring all this information to that owner, but before you do that, you really have to create a much better solution for them.
Next thing we’re going to do, tip number three: So number two—conduct that barrier analysis. Tip number three: ask the customer up and down the organization how you can improve. Ask them what’s missing from your current solution. I know, right now, that you want to get up to see that business owner, that high-level decision maker, and you’re going to get there eventually. But until you get to that point, it’s important to understand other areas where you can improve with this particular customer.
So if you have a relationship with the engineers, with the design team, with the operations manager, whoever it might be, have an in-depth conversation about what you can do to improve and to get better. And by doing this, you’re going to create a much better end-to-end experience for your customer. It’s going to help them become more successful. It’s going to help them make more money. And after you do all of these things, then you go back to the owner and you conduct a business review.
A business review is when you have an opportunity to sit down with the owner of that company and you talk through all the ways that you create a value, all the ways that you improved for them this year, and then you translate all of that value into meaningful impact in their business. That’s going to help strengthen that relationship. That’s going to show them how you spiced things up, and the best part about it is you’re reminding them about it there in that meeting.
So those are the three tips for you today, Mark. If you have a follow-up question, hey, make sure you go to the website and ask it.
Make it a big day.