many, one of the greatest moments in business
is the joy of attracting a new customer
or client. In such circumstances it is
easy to get so caught up in the excitement,
that we forget to spend time on realising
the value of one of our business's best
assets - our existing client base.
receiving orders from existing clients
may not be as exciting as attracting new
clients, but often this is where the real
growth potential for our business lies;
this is where untapped profits can be
found. Moreover, existing clients can
show us the best path for business development
- that is if we invite them and listen
carefully to what they have to say.
explain. It's generally accepted that
acquiring a totally new client costs a
whole lot more than generating an order
from (or via) an existing client. The
extra cost is in all the unpaid time spent
on research, proposals, marketing and
promotion, meetings, follow-ups and so
on. However, there are ways to bring in
"new business" from "old
clients" that provide considerably
more profitable and satisfying results.
first thing you need to do is develop
the mindset that your current customer
base is your most valuable asset. Treat
your clients as if they are your lifeblood,
because that's exactly what they are to
your business. Responding to their needs
should take priority over prospecting
for new clients.
this can be a hard concept for some to
accept. Indeed, you may strongly disagree.
Admittedly, if your business is strongly
sales led - let's take real estate for
example - it would be natural that an
attitude of 'onto the next sale' dominates
the culture of your business.
so, is it really prudent to attach less
importance to past customers than to future
ones? I think not. In such a case the
solution may involve developing a side
of your business that, in effect, takes
over the relationship once the sale is
made: sales staff get on with selling
(their priority, and often the focus the
principal holds), while customer relationship
staff develop further opportunities (their
are the behaviours of many large corporate
organisations. Not only can we learn from
them, we can actually enjoy much greater
success in relative terms as we have the
benefits that being small can bring. Our
relationships can be much more personal;
we can react to situations quickly; we
can make changes to our procedures immediately.
looking to grow business through your
existing customer base, it's necessary
to fully grasp their needs and understand
their relationship with you. If you listen
and observe carefully, you will find that
your clients are often telling you what
more they need, they are signposting where
your opportunities for expansion lie.
correctly, your existing customers are
in effect your Research and Development
(R&D) team. By listening, observing,
questioning and trialing, you can develop
new service and product offerings that
fit the needs they are articulating, rather
than market testing new products to new
your customers as members of a kind of
quasi-R&D team can save you a good
deal of time and money and has the added
benefit of producing increased goodwill.
One of the most powerful steps you can
take in relationship building is to ask
questions relating to a recent transaction.
was the last time a supplier demonstrated
to you a genuine interest and concern
in their standards of service? Can you
remember being invited to suggest how
their product or service could do more,
go further, be better?
we may see a 'suggestions box' pop up
now and again, but invariably this is
just a token gesture and an outdated one
in touch with your clients just for the
sake of staying in touch is yet another
essential action that is regularly overlooked
or at best, handled very irregularly.
You don't want to bombard past customers
with sales pitches or hassle them with
daily phone calls, but you can keep in
touch enough to keep your business present
in their mind. Enough to show that you
genuinely value their business; value
their relationship with you.
popular means of this kind of customer
contact is provided by the internet. Many
businesses are now developing regular
newsletters that provide useful information
and invite clients and their acquaintances
should not be full of special offers,
nor full of boring irrelevant tales of
how brilliant you are. Newsletters should
carry news - news that is of interest
to your customers. A good newsletter will
help establish you as a specialist; as
a business that has an opinion; a business
that cares about its customers.
customers should be respected every bit
as much as new customers. Honour your
deadlines and guarantees. Do what you
say you're going to do. Better still,
do more. There is no surer way to lose
credibility than failing to live up to
your word. Respond quickly and never be
late. When clients know they can rely
on you, they return and will speak highly
of you to others.
the more you invest in your business's
major asset, the more return you will
reap. Happy clients make for a happy business.
Satisfied clients are more likely to refer
others to you. Stay in touch and the chances
are they'll promote your business for
a very long time.
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