When you lose a customer the usual advice is to move on or find another one. The advice may be well meant, but losing a client is a huge disappointment and it can take more than a moment to recover. But, if you have the courage for it, it does create a great opportunity for customer feedback.
Thank your customer
When was the last time you went to thank a customer after losing their business? Have you ever thanked them? Do you thank them from time to time for giving you their business and support in the first place?
Consider this scenario. You invite your customer to meet with no agenda except to thank them for the business they gave you. You meet and do just that, with total sincerity and no hidden motives. What happens? Your customer relaxes, defences are lowered and a natural conversation ensues. No ‘defence mechanisms’ are up because you make it clear you are not there to try and win the business back.
Your motive in organising this follow-up is to listen and learn, and you may well be surprised at the opportunities that arise as a result.
In such a relaxed open environment you can obtain a mine of information like:
• Why their need for your services/products dried up?
• Who replaced you as a supplier?
• What could you have done to prevent being substituted or ‘fired’?
• What you and your company must do to regain your competitive edge?
• What are their longer terms plans?
• How could you position yourself to be included in those plans?
This kind of market customer feedback is priceless
Research has shown that the key differentiator between top and mediocre salespeople is their ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. If you are truly working together as business partners, there might be a valid reason for the customer to stop buying from you for a while. But, the opportunity may open up again in the future, and if you fail to nurture that relationship, you are unlikely to get the call.
People move positions and move companies and when they do move they are likely to take their trusted advisors with them – this may well be you. Do you deserve the title of ‘trusted advisor’ or are you just a sales rep quick to take any old order?
Recently, I organised a meeting to thank the GM of a large bank for their business, which they had recently ended. During our chat I learned he was soon to be appointed as the GM for Development into Africa. He went on to say that he will call on us to come back once the strategy and processes had been implemented. This happens when top salespeople make a lasting impression and view the service/product from the buyer’s perspective. It drives home the fact that trusted advisors are not in business for a ‘quick buck’. People will always buy from people they trust and like.
* by Clive Price, the MD of The Peer Group, a company that specialises in sales training and front line excellence. Clive has a BA (Econ) from Wits University and a Post Graduate Degree in Learning Psychology from London University. Visit: www.mypeergroup.com.