Are you focusing on surface profitability instead of client satisfaction?
Since every twenty-third person in the U.S. is a salesperson, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the sales profession is very competitive. But I bet you already knew that. If you’re like most salespeople, you probably don’t have to look beyond the walls of your own company to find good competition—sometimes of the friendly variety, other times of the antagonistic variety.
In fact, you may even have to compete for your job on a regular basis. Simply put, selling competition is everywhere. And the truth is that even if you begin selling an innovative product, you can be sure that you won’t be the only one selling it for long.
Rule The Roost
Once a product gains popularity, other entrepreneurs will create similar products of their own. We see this every year. One car company begins selling an SUV or a minivan, then every car company follows suit—some sooner than others, but eventually everyone is selling a similar type of vehicle because people are buying.
To be perpetually successful in the sales profession, you must win customers from the competition initially, and you must win customers from the competition incessantly. Salespeople who focus only on customer acquisition don’t remain on top for long. It’s those with high customer retention who rule the roost. And that’s where many salespeople go wrong.
They put all their efforts into acquiring customers—and that’s certainly important—but they fall short when it comes to retaining customers for the long haul. It’s a fatal mistake I call “skimming.” And if you don’t do away with it in your sales career, your sales success will eventually dry up.
Stop Digging The Well. Take A Drink.
The mistake of skimming is essentially putting all your eggs into the acquisition basket and, contrary to Andrew Carnegie’s age-old advice, not watching the basket. Skimming is 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. And unless you enjoy working harder than you have to, prospecting more than you need to, and maintaining a high level of stress and instability in your sales career, then you must do something to avoid the mistake of skimming.
The results of skimming aren’t always immediately measurable. Many sales skimmers launch out of the starting gate with a great selling strategy and end up with a ton of business right away. And that’s a good thing... at first. But what they soon learn—usually one client at a time—is that getting sales is only digging the well to sales success. Keeping clients is the spring that fills the well. And therefore, shallow, untapped relationships eventually leave one’s sales career high and dry.
The truth is that many ambitious salespeople will eventually learn about the fatal mistake of skimming. They do a great job of acquiring a client base, but because they fail to retain clients in a proactive manner, they have to rely heavily on prospecting to sustain their success. And when the market slows or becomes oversaturated or clients’ needs take an unexpected turn, such salespeople have a tough time maintaining anything more than mediocre success.
Ultimately, productive prospecting can take you only so far in the world of sales. While it’s a vital part of any profitable selling strategy, it can only open the door to sales success.
To be a successful sales professional, you must establish trust with your prospects so that they become clients. You must also foster their trust so that they remain clients. And if you don’t, you’re not only staking your entire sales career on a consistent influx of new business—on constant prospecting—but you’re never tapping the full potential of your relationships. When you make the mistake of skimming, you may as well write your competition a check every month because you’re losing money on a regular basis by not retaining the clients you’ve landed. You’re subtracting success. You’re losing repeat and referral business that was in your hands.
What’s Your Share?
Foundationally, salespeople who make the mistake of skimming do so because they rely on what’s called a “market-share” mentality instead of a “client-share” mentality.
Let’s say that over the course of a month, there are one hundred sales in your given territory that are available to you and your competitors. If you landed five of those available sales, then you’d end up with a 5 percent market share for the month.
Closed 5 of 100 sales available in your market = 5 percent market share
Generally speaking, to maximize your market share, you must sell your product to as many clients as you possibly can in a given market—the greater the number of clients you have, the higher your market share. But the problem is that usually means spending a lot less time with a lot more people. In effect, to increase your market share, you have to spread yourself thinner, which results in shallow, untapped relationships and a very unstable business foundation.
On the other hand, if you were striving to increase your client share, you would focus on fostering deeper relationships with fewer people—spreading yourself thicker, so to speak. Following the example just given: if in the same one-month period you focused on only two clients who offered the potential of ten sales (directly through the clients themselves or indirectly through their referrals), and you secured half of them, you would end up with a 50 percent client-share.
Closed 5 of 10 sales available from 2 clients = 50 percent client-share
And here’s the beauty of this strategy: while you still closed the same net amount of sales as in the previous example (five), it undoubtedly required much less effort because the clients already trusted you. You didn’t have to do any prospecting to secure your sales. In essence, you let your existing clients prospect for you.
Now, I don’t know about you, but spending highly productive time with clients who know me sounds much better than pounding the pavement or the phone pad unendingly for the purpose of spending highly unproductive time with prospects who don’t know me from Adam. I have a sense you feel the same way.
A New Mentality
Increasing current client business equals success.
A salesperson who focuses on increasing client share strives to tap the full value of every client he or she obtains. He is less concerned about increasing his client base because he understands that once he has earned trust with a client, seeking repeat and referral business from that client is always more efficient and productive than acquiring business from new clients in the market.
From Solo To Symphony
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. In other words, to stop skimming in your sales career, you must begin moving your existing client relationships from a buyer-seller affiliation to a partnership that’s governed by give-and-take.
When you make the mistake of skimming, you alone are your only source of sales. Consequently success is a solo effort. And while you may be the best and most trusted closer in your industry, until you tap into the resource of others—namely, your existing clients—you will find that your sales success is either short-lived or very tough to sustain.
In contrast, the salespeople who are perpetually on top know that it takes a selling symphony to create a never-ending crescendo of sales success.