One of the most important principles that every sales professional must understand is the difference between generating customers and retaining customers. Generating customers is what prospecting and advertising accomplishes. It is the process of acquiring new customers. Retaining customers is the process of keeping your present customers happy so that they will come back again and buy. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Salt Lake says that it costs five times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep one. Do you see why servicing the sale is such a good investment? As you service the sale, you will learn that every customer is a potential source for more sales. This is more apparent with industrial products because the sales professional calls on the same customers regularly. But, even in other types of selling such as books, cars, appliances, insurance, and real estate, the customer is a valuable asset and the most important resource for more sales.
An Appreciating Asset: A local supermarket manager once told me that when a customer walks into his store, he sees $720,000 stamped on the customer’s forehead. I asked what he meant and he explained his idea of every customer being AN APPRECIATED ASSET. He explained an interesting formula. Let’s say that a typical family of four purchases $150 of groceries from a store each week. You multiply the $150 by the four weeks in a month and end up with $600. Over a twelve-month period, this adds up to $7,200. Over a ten-year period, the total becomes $72,000. Also, as we consider the customer’s powerful word-of-mouth advertising, we can see that a specific customer can influence at least one single person each year. Ten people over a ten-year period multiplied by $72,000 becomes $720,000. Can you see why every customer is an appreciating asset? If a sales professional looks at every customer in this way, the seller will likely take a new view of service. No matter what you sell, you can work out a formula to determine the appreciating value of the customer as an asset. Simply do the following formula found in the next figure:
A Simple Formula for Determining a Customer’s Value
$ x 4 weeks = $
$ x 12 months = $
$ x 10 years = $
$ x 10 people = $
As every sales professional considers the future dollar potential that a single customer can produce, extra mile efforts in servicing the needs of individual customers should be made daily practice. The dollar amounts are only the tip of the iceberg. The repeat customer is also any company’s principal vehicle for powerful word-of-mouth advertising. Research points out that happy customers will tell on the average of three people. A typical dissatisfied customer will tell ten people. Unhappy customers, multiplied over and over, make the “appreciating asset” concept quite powerful.
The key to repeat sales is an enthusiastic customer, not just a “satisfied one.” Ask a satisfied customer how he likes a sales professional, and he will respond like this: “Oh, he’s okay.” But, the customer who is enthusiastic about the product and the sales professional will respond, “He’s the greatest. You can’t go wrong with that sales professional. Let me tell you what he did for me.” Most customers like to play the role of Paul Revere. If they have poor or unsatisfactory service, they will warn their friends, family, and associates just as Paul Revere warned the people of his day that the “British are coming!” The customer will say, “Don’t buy products from that company.” On the other hand, if the customer is happy, he will tell his friends of the great service. If you deliver what the customer wants without any problems, the customer will become an asset for you instead of a liability. When you deliver more than the customer expected and go the extra mile, this develops a customer who is enthusiastic and turned on. This will encourage more business with the same person and with those whom the person can influence to buy from you.
Today’s successful sales professionals learn to do several things that give the customer “more” than expected. The customer then becomes excited and enthusiastic about the product which, in turn, produces the climate for repeat sales and new sales. The goal of every sale should be to develop a positive relationship for you and your company. As a local automotive repair manager puts it, “I like the challenge of taking organizational relationships and turn them into long-term professional friendships.” When you start to get repeat business, you will have evidence that shows success in servicing and following up on the sale. The goal that every sales professional should establish is to look at each individual customer in terms of potential sales and value instead of the present purchase. This perceptual change will be called the ability to “Triple A Protect” the customer. The symbol that you will see in the next illustration is the national logo for the American Automobile Association. Whenever you see this symbol on the back of a car, on the sign of a hotel, or in front of a restaurant, you know that there is some association with this national company. Motorists have peace of mind and security knowing that “Triple A” will be there in case of a transportation breakdown. By looking at customers as assets that appreciate and gain value over time, you will be more likely to provide the care and excellent service to satisfy their needs and take care of their problems. Triple A Protection is simply a change in attitude and perception to look at customers as valuable assets that deserve nurturing.
DETERMINING THE AMOUNT OF FOLLOW-UP
Remember that the basic purpose of the eight steps of selling is to generate and increase sales. Servicing the sale is an investment, so you’d better learn which customers make the best investment for future sales. Basically, the time spent on servicing and follow-up should be based upon two considerations:
■ The size of the order.
■ The importance of the sale.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to spend more time as the size of the order increases. If the customer gives you a large order, you’d better spend the needed time to make sure the customer is happy with your service, delivery, and the product. This does not mean that customers who give you a smaller order do not need attention. If you are working with a customer who can give you more future business, you should take the extra care with the first order, even if it is a small order. If a small order could produce bigger sales down the road, spend more time and adequately service the customer. A good rule of thumb to follow is to have your average service be comparable to your competitor’s best service–with this principle put into practice, you will never have to worry about losing customers to your competition.
One important element must be considered in any customer service program developed by a sales professional. The individual customer perceives service in his or her own terms. Some customers can be satisfied with a minimal level of service, while others demand extra mile service on every purchase. A sales professional should always keep a high standard of service so that everyone stays happy. A certain amount of servicing should be included in every sale that a sales professional is involved in.