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Knowing when you get a new customer or client is easy – many of us have probably recently been in rooms that still had the “new account bell,” that obnoxious celebration of landing a new account that just won’t seem to die.
This practice always struck me as backward. There’s a loud noise and a lot of celebration when a new customer is won, but when that same customer inevitably leaves in six months, or there’s no second sale after the first, there is no bell, no alarm, and no recognition that they’ve gone.
Have you ever thought about it that way? Most of my clients haven’t either until we start working together.
One of the questions I love asking sales managers and CEO’s alike is, “How do you know when you’ve lost a customer?”
It’s something that bears thinking about. In your company, in your industry, what signals that you’ve lost a customer?
Sometimes, it’s easy. They call you, they complain, impugn the reputation of your parents, and wish all manner of bodily harm on you and your company.
Other times, you find out when your sales rep shows up, and you’re told that they switched to a competitor four months ago, but thanks for dropping by and they’ll call you if anything changes.
In some industries, it’s easy to tell just by looking at the date and dollar value of the last purchase. If you expect them to buy every 30 days, but their orders in the last six months are 10% of what you’d expect, you’ve lost the account in everything but name.
It’s critical to think about this, but in my experience, very few company leaders take the time to consider what the signs of a lost customer are. They look at their database (or their salespeople’s little black books of contacts), look at total sales revenue for this year vs. last, and are happy to believe that everybody is still an active customer.
It’s counterintuitive (and often depressing) to look at what’s not happening, which is probably why so few do it. But avoiding these questions only leads to painful realizations later about how few viable clients you have left.
Here’s a challenge for you: Figure out what activity (or lack of activity) would provide a strong signal that you are going to lose a client (or have already lost them). Maybe it’s a dramatic drop in frequency or dollar value of sales. Perhaps they’ve reduced the product lines they’re purchasing from you in the past two orders. Maybe it’s just that you haven’t been able to get your buyer on the phone in the last three attempts.
Whatever it is, find a way to identify it, and find a way to be alerted when it happens. Because if you can’t respond immediately, it’s likely that the next time you get in touch, you will no longer be a partner, but a vendor trying to get back in the door.
If you don’t have any way of accurately answering the question above, or you don’t know how to put that alarm in place, then you need to figure that out as soon as humanly possible.
It’s time to dump the bell and crank up the loud, annoying, warning siren. It’s easy to celebrate success, but it often masks the deafening silence of customers walking out the door.