Paul provides seven tips to deal with the inevitable issue of losing your main contact.
How many good relationships do you have within your top customers? How many should you have?
When meeting the new decision maker, reinforce the popularity of your solution.
Discuss your new key contact’s expectations and goals.
When transitioning to a new contact, treat the business as new business.
Ask the new contact how you can make this transition easier for them.
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What if your main customer contact leaves?
(Transcribed from podcast)
Today, we have a common question that I hear from salespeople often. In fact, I just was out playing golf this past weekend and my buddy, who is in sales, asked me this question. He said, “What do you do when your main contact leaves?”
So, we’re out on the golf course, doing what you do: talking business, talking sales. (Played an excellent round by the way. So can’t wait to get back out and swing the sticks again.) But that is what we are going to answer on today’s episode. So Kyle, this one is for you buddy: What do you do if your main contact leaves?
Now, before we get into answering that question, just a reminder, make sure you visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you get your books, and pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times.
You know, tough times are on the horizon. There are several indicators that suggest so. In fact, think about the volatility of the stock market, think about the rising interest rates, think about inflation. There’s sort of an economic slowdown happening right now. Now is the time to prepare yourself for tough times. So pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. It’s available wherever you get your books.
So let’s get back to that question: What do you do if your main contact leaves? So, I’ve got seven ideas that I’m going to share with you today that will help you prepare for this. A couple of them are proactive measures, a couple of them are going to be what you do after the fact.
Now, I get it. I understand this challenge. I’ve experienced this myself in sales several, several different times. What happens is that you have a contact, right, at your main opportunity, one of your main customers, and this is your core contact. This is who you’re interacting with on a regular basis. This is who you’re entertaining. You’ve built a strong relationship with this key decision maker or contact, and then, all of a sudden, they leave. Now you are stuck. It’s almost like you’re starting over once again, and it can be frustrating.
So, first of all, I’m going to throw a few data points at you. Our research shows that in any complex decision, there’s going to be between five and six people involved. The actual number is 5.8 decision makers. So that’s based on our research we did on a buying study a few years ago. Here’s something interesting though. When we go through tough times, people will involve more decision makers in the process. So that number has likely increased over the past couple of years. There’s a reason why I’m sharing that number with you. If you are a salesperson listening to this episode, ask yourself, “Looking at my key customers, how many good relationships do I have? How many good relationships, good contacts do I have within my top customers?” If you don’t have at least four or five solid relationships within your top customers, you are vulnerable. There’s a strong chance that, at any point in time, a couple of contacts could leave and then you’re forced to start over again.
So, right now, here’s something proactive you can do. Take a look at your best customers—you know, your top 20%—and go through and determine how many relationships you have, how strong are those relationships, and then identify things you can do to improve those relationships. It could be something as simple as increasing the amount of communication you have, or correspondence with those contacts.
And you might be wondering, “Okay, what constitutes a good relationship?” If you can reach out to a contact and they’re willing to meet with you, if you have, you know, just a good in-depth conversation with them and you communicate on a regular basis, that is a good relationship. You need five or six of those within your top customers. Again, any less than that, and you’re vulnerable. You’ve got to remember, your key competitors are trying to steal your best customers, so it is critical that you build those solid relationships.
The next several measures that I’m going to share with you, they’re not in any particular order, but these are the things you can do after your main contact has already left. Okay?
The first thing you want to do is reinforce the popularity of the previous decision, which is the decision to go with your company. A reason we want to do this, when you have a new decision maker that is involved, they’re going to be looking for proof. They’re going to be looking for information. And if you can share some data, some insights that show—that prove rather—your solution was a popular decision, that people were on board with it, they liked it, they’ve experienced good outcomes. That can only help your cause. That’s going to help you as you try to reinforce the decision that was previously made. This provides that social proof that people crave. So, some way, somehow, you need to reinforce the popularity of the previous decision. It’s really going to strengthen your position with the new key contact.
The third thing—you want to discuss expectations with your new key contact. When you meet this new decision maker for the first time, they’re going to want to put their fingerprints on this decision, on this solution, in some way. The best thing you can do is talk about their expectations and their goals. So have a sit-down conversation with this new key contact and say, “You know, the first time I started working with your company, I had an in-depth understanding of your company’s needs or expectations, what’s important. I’d like to have that conversation with you. So, from your perspective, what do you expect from me as we go throughout this process? What’s going to be important to you? What are some of your goals?” And essentially, you’re starting over the discovery process in some way. You’re having a conversation about what’s important to them. And really the key is, you’re putting the focus on them and what’s important to them. So make sure you discuss their goals and what they expect from you, what they expect from your company and your solution.
Next tip, educate and deliver insights. Remember, you’re essentially starting over with a new contact, which means, in some ways, you’re having to start over throughout your sales process and that’s okay because you’re starting over as an insider already, which gives you an advantage. But during this process, you want to educate and deliver some insights. The reason we do this, number one, it obviously creates value for the customer, but more importantly, it positions you as a value creator. And that’s what you want to be. You want to be a salesperson that adds value. And to do that, think about trends in the industry, share that with them. Educate them on the buying process, what criteria they should be using.
Our internal research—this was from 2018, when we published Value-Added Selling, the fourth edition—we did a survey and we asked decision makers, “How can salespeople bring more value?” The number one response was, “Deliver more meaningful insight early in the decision-making process.” So, when you’re going to meet with this new contact, Kyle, here’s what you want to do. You want to educate them, and do so in a humble way. We want them to show that, “Hey, we’re educating you. We’re providing value.” You want to deliver those insights, help them make a better decision.
The next tip, this really focuses on our attitude when we go into the meeting. The last thing we want to do is walk into this meeting assuming that we’re going to win that piece of business or keep the business. That’s the last thing we want to do. Because we need to realize that we’re coming in fresh, and so is this buyer. They’re coming in fresh; we’re coming in fresh. Let’s make sure we open up with a nice positive attitude.
And the final tip, and this is by far, oh, this is like red meat. This is solid gold what I’m about to tell you. The final tip: you need to ask your new decision maker, “What can I do to make this transition as easy as possible for you?” You’ve got to remember, the person you’re meeting with, they perhaps were thrown into a new role that they may not know anything about. They’re maybe asked to make a decision that they’re unfamiliar with. Perhaps this is a new hire that is with a new company and a new role learning about all these things. They are going through a stressful time. Your goal is to make their life as easy as possible. That’s why this moment with a new contact, although it is frustrating, it creates such an opportunity to build a strong, future relationship with this new contact. So just remember that final tip, that final question: “What can I do to make this transition as easy as possible?”
Make it a big day.