In last week's article we discussed the fatal mistake of skimming: pulling out all the stops to establish a relationship with a customer, then bailing out on the marriage. It’s doing all that needs to be done to earn a sale, then doing nothing to keep a client.
Avoiding the mistake of skimming in your relationships is a matter of moving your business from a reliance on prospecting to a reliance on partnering. Salespeople who are perpetually on top know that it takes a selling symphony to create a never-ending crescendo of sales success.
Here's five steps to transition the relationship from client to referral partner.
As you consider each of the following steps, keep in mind that this system is not only meant to be applied to every client you have now; it’s also meant to be applied to every client you will have in the future.
STEP 1: TAKE INVENTORY.
Determine your existing clients’ value. Who are your lead players—your clients who can give you loads of their own business and also lots of referral business? Who are your accompanying players— your clients who may not provide you with big business, but who can provide you with consistent business in the form of repeat or referral sales? And which players don’t make the cut? These are your clients who are either high maintenance or low profit or both.
You’re the conductor of this symphony, so only you can define who is fit to play and who isn’t.
STEP 2: DETERMINE YOUR INVESTMENT LEVELS.
Once you know which clients can be lead players and which can provide consistent accompaniment to your sales business, you must then determine how much time and money you will invest in each of them in order to sustain their business and tap their resources. There is no magic formula to how much you should invest. Like any monetary investment, you just need to consider your potential return from each client on your list.
STEP 3: CAST YOUR VISION TO YOUR CLIENTS.
On an individual basis, schedule meetings with each of your clients who made the cut in the first step. Don’t cast your vision on the phone, but explain to them that they are vital to the ongoing success of your business and you’d like to discuss the feasibility of forming a mutually beneficial partnership where you offer them discounts and special privileges in exchange for their repeat business and referrals.
Then in your formal meeting, take the following approach:
First and foremost, let them know how much you appreciate their business and desire to continue serving them in the most valuable way possible by developing and fostering a mutually beneficial partnership.
Second, share how you desire to add value to them with their direction.
Third, ask them to help you determine how the two of you can compose an arrangement for a mutually beneficial relationship—a symphony.
Keep in mind that this step doesn’t work very well if you haven’t already established trust with a client or if, you’ve been out of touch for a while. In such cases, you may need to establish a level of consistency and integrity with your client before you take this third step. If that’s the case, I recommend spending six to twelve months carrying out Step 2 with a client before you move to Step 3.
STEP 4: ORCHESTRATE WHAT PARTS THEY WILL PLAY.
Obviously, you will want your best clients playing the biggest part in helping you succeed. So once you’ve established your part in adding value to your clients, your next step—with their help—is to determine what parts they will play in your relationships’ arrangement in order to further your business. There are three things you need to determine:
1. The amount of business you will receive from them on an annual basis.
2. The number of referrals you will receive from them on an annual basis.
3. How they will help you recruit new clients if and when it is necessary?
STEP 5: STRIKE UP THE BAND. LITERALLY.
The greatest partnership arrangement in the world isn’t going to make a bit of difference in your selling career until you put your wand in motion. Not only must you begin playing out your determined partnership roles, you must do so on a regular basis in order to make certain that you don’t become rusty and out of tune with each others’ values, needs, and goals. And if you do so with integrity and the right motives, you may eventually end up with a successful business relationship.
To skirt the skimming mistake in your sales career, you must understand one thing:
Your greatest advantage over your selling competition is knowing your clients better than they do. And while there are no perfect formulas for composing a seamless selling symphony—because it’s more art than science—as in any relationship, the better in tune you are with your clients’