HOW TO IMPROVE SALES AND PROFITABILITY WITH EXISTING CUSTOMERS
This blog takes a look at combining the 'hunter' and 'farmer' sales personas to ‘hunt the farm’ - seeking out latent customer demand through the use of data, analytics and creativity.
Hunting the farm
In this competitive world we live in, a poor experience or a very keen competitor can easily upset the sales fundamentals of your business overnight. So, while it's important to acquire new customers, perhaps a more immediate way of impacting the business fundamentals is to go 'hunting on the farm', opening up opportunities for improving sales and profitability with existing customers.
Stay up to date. Your customer needs change over time.
Once you have landed the deal, the convention is to invest time and money in nurturing a great connection between you and your customer. Unfortunately, too often once the deal is done, the role of sales retention becomes one of hand holding and quasi customer service.
Having a good ongoing dialogue is essential, however over time customer needs will change and as a sales person it is essential for you to get ahead of the game. It’s not a great negotiating position to be in when your only source of information is coming from your customer. Using surveys, industry analytics and monitoring competitor activities are great ways to get the conversation on your terms. More importantly, you need to get the next negotiation on your terms. Being seen as the ‘category captain’ is the desired state – providing value beyond the product that your business is selling.
Work your data at a micro level for really useful insights
Historical growth rates only tell you part of the story. You need to dig much deeper at the micro level. By digging deeper, we mean looking at all available data in smaller geographies and sub accounts. You need to look at these micro areas with a range of data sources – Market share, sales volume and value growth, plus insights straight out of your customer surveys e.g. Net Promoter Scores.
From this micro level data, actionable insights can be generated to help you develop sales strategies and tactics for teams to go after growth in under penetrated areas or products. And don’t forget those nuggets sitting inside your CRM. Delve into the notes, review what content your customer has interacted with and use this information to prioritise and tailor your conversations and offering.
Prioritise proactivity. Inspire your customer with the ‘next product to purchase’
Customers can often be distanced from sales people as customer service and logistics functions take over. Don’t wait until the next request for proposal comes across your desk. By getting to know your customer, you are in a great place to help the customer see the ‘forest from the trees’ as you are one step removed from the detail – your insights are valuable to them personally and to their business.
You should be aiming to extend your influence beyond your buying or everyday customer. Reaching out to senior managers with new ideas that help solve emerging problems or answer new end user needs are great ways to generate new insights and build new levels of value. Don’t be shy! They are your customer for a reason and will value the ideas and any helpful, inspired content you have for them. Particularly, if it makes them look good!
Investigate and challenge unprofitable deals
Unprofitable deals and commercial arrangements can often linger as the ‘normal terms of business’. Particularly in considered purchase product categories, pricing and commercial terms can be highly specific and based off incorrect assumptions at the RFP stage. So you and your team need to summon up the courage to have a confronting conversation with your customer based on data and rigorous analysis.
Analysing actual data and presenting a case for repricing can significantly improve customer profitability. This type of approach requires resilience and a compelling composition or story telling based on detailed data. Taking a forensic accounting approach to existing deals and customer commercial arrangements can be a great way of clawing back unprofitable arrangements or identifying new and compelling arguments for higher value deals.
Always remember that your customers have chosen your business for very good reasons. They rely on your quality, knowledge, continuity of supply and your best service, so it’s not always about the cheapest price!