Managing Your Most Valuable Asset… And You’ll Be Surprised At What It Is!

Did you know that the chances of making a sale to an existing customer are seven times greater than the chances of making a sale to a new prospect? In this article, we’ll give you the tools you need to help your sales team manage and maximize this most valuable asset.

After watching some of the hard-fought races in midterm elections, it’s easy to forget that the real work of a politician begins after the votes are counted. It’s not the campaigning that’s most difficult – it’s delivering what you say you’ll deliver after the election. It’s one thing to crank out campaign ads and stump speeches, but as Lyndon Johnson once pointed out, “It’s easier to throw a grenade than to catch it.”

The same can be said of sales. In many cases, the most grueling and demanding part of dealing with customers is not in the sales process. It’s after the sale is made. And that’s when the hard work really begins.

How do you and your sales team manage accounts after they’re sold? Let’s take a look at some fundamental ideas that are essential to maintaining your accounts for the long haul. First of all, why do you need to do it in the first place? The answer to that is simple and straightforward:

  • Selling more to existing customers is easier than always having to find new ones.
  • Selling to existing customers is less expensive than constantly finding new ones.
  • Selling to existing customers creates more predictable income, known margins and cash flow.

Again, the analogy of the politician is helpful here. Generally speaking, the effort and resources that incumbents need to win an election are a fraction of what challengers need – especially if the incumbent has delivered on their promises while in office.

It’s the same in sales. In fact, according to Peter Drucker:

  • Your chances of making a sale to a new prospect are 1 in 14
  • Your chances of making a sale to someone who’s not currently a customer, but has bought from you in the past, are 1 in 4
  • Your chances of making a sale to a current customer are 1 in 2

Clearly for your sales team, customers are the absolute best prospects. It only makes sense to ensure your sales team does their best to hold onto them. Let’s take a look at some strategies to help successfully maintain the customers you earn.

Here are 10 Principles for Managing and Maximizing Your Existing Customers:

  1. Fully buy into the concept that the hard work begins after the sale is made.
    Celebrating a sale is great – but execution and implementation are ultimately more essential than celebration.
  2. Work to establish an expectation that is reasonable to achieve and possible to surpass.
    Failing to meet your new customer’s expectations will probably kill your relationship quickly. Failing to exceed them could be detrimental down the road – especially when competitors are doing their best to lure your customers away from you.
  3. Never take any customer for granted.
    Go the extra mile and work to understand their dynamics, needs and demands. Let them know they matter… they are important to you no matter who they are or the size of their account.
  4. Manage the details.
    These are the issues that, if not handled correctly, can first disrupt and then totally destroy the entire account.
  5. Master an understanding of how things really work within the account.
    Who are the power players? Are you being relegated to lower levels? How do you ensure that you and your organization continue to receive “top billing?”
  6. Anticipate issues.
    You should never be blind-sided in an account. There should be no surprises. If you have delivery or quality problems, you should know about them and deal with them before they ever have a chance to become an issue.
  7. Be proactive but not pushy.
    Look for opportunities and additional ways to make life easier, solve more problems or create more value for your customer.
  8. Stay on top of billing.
    Work with your accounts receivable department to ensure invoices are correct and forwarded on a timely basis. Check to ensure your customer is paying on time. Anticipate payment problems and solve them.
  9. Understand that things do change.
    Your relationship, value, profitability and long-term viability with the account can be enhanced or diminished by personnel or organizational change within the account. Anticipate it and do your best to position yourself as solidly and deeply as you can within the account.
  10. Make sure your assets don’t become detriments.
    Don’t fall prey to bending too much for the customer. Remember that providing extra free service or discounted products only establishes an expectation that will continue to spiral downward to the point that the entire account may be unprofitable and not worth pursuing. Try to identify opportunities within the account that either better position you or generate more revenue for you.

What’s the bottom line? Prospecting is short-term. The sales process is longer. But maintaining the account, continually meeting your commitments and exceeding expectations is the long-haul way to limitless success.

This is the area where there is a fine line between selling and servicing. The most successful sales organizations understand that selling and servicing are not independent variables or strict “one or the other” situations. Instead, they are two sides of the same coin — one drives the other and each is of equal importance.

Remember this: your sales team has to work hard to earn the right to sell to their customers. Then they have to continue to work hard to earn the right to sell them more and ultimately use them as positive, productive referral sources. How valuable are they? They’re clearly the most valuable commodity that your organization has. So treat them right.