This article was first written back in 2011 by our good friend, Mark Coudray, and the information is timeless. Enjoy.
When you need new business there are may different approaches. The most important are those ways that get orders quickly with the least purchasing resistance possible. Without a doubt, the fastest way to get more business is to look at your existing customer base and see if you can sell them more. There are a variety of ways of doing this. Two of the fastest are to bundles and programs.
Bundles are where you group two or more items together at a significant discount. The idea is to create an irresistible offer where your customer would be crazy not to take it up. We see this in informercials all the time. You know, “Call in the next two minutes and we’ll double the offer,” or they include two or three additional complementary items along with the original product. Examples for us would be to combine hats and tees or perhaps hoodie sweatshirts and tees.
Programs are timed delivery of product. This works best when you have customers who’re using up a lot of shirts and are too busy to place a regular order with you. You can set them up on a once a month, every two months, every 3 months or whatever is appropriate for them. You give them a cumulative discount for the privilege of automatically delivering goods to them. For instance, you may give them a 144 price break but fill in the orders at 48 pieces.
These approaches work great until you’ve gone to the well too many times. Then what? The next best place is to resurrect customers who’ve left you for one reason or another. I don’t know why businesses are so scared of this. Perhaps they think if a customer’s left, they don’t like you. In most cases that’s simply not true.
People leave for all kinds of reasons. Your main contact may have left the organization and there’s someone new that doesn’t know you. Perhaps their needs changed and they no longer required your services. Perhaps there was some internal disturbance that caused you to fall between the cracks. Most likely, your customer simply got too busy and time slipped by. Before you know it, it’s been a couple of years since they’ve done anything.
To make matters worse, when you’re busy, you don’t seem to notice them falling off. It’s only when times get slow and you start to look back that you see how much business has gone away. This is called attrition. It’s the easiest and fastest way to get orders in, after you’ve exhausted your currently active accounts.
Get out your total customer list. If you can by most recent order. You can now go down the list and find everyone who hasn’t called you in say, 6 months. Get on the phone and call them. Simply ask if there’s anything wrong? Tell them you’ve noticed they haven’t ordered recently and you wanted to make sure you haven’t done something to offend them.
If something isn’t right or if you’ve upset them in some way, you’ll learn about it right now and you can correct the problem. Make sure you sincerely thank them for their frankness and directness in letting you know where things when off track.
By the way, this is something the OWNER should do. If an employee did something you want to know about it. You can use the owner-to-owner approach and get them to level with you. It’s tough to listen to, but it’s also a big part of making your business better.
If everything is ok and you haven’t mistepped, your customer will find themselves in the position of having to respond. You may very possibly end up with an order on the spot. This is especially true if you give them a “welcome back” incentive of some kind.
If you have mistepped, it will give you an opportunity to fix it once and for all. This is one of the biggests gifts your customers can give you, even though it isn’t an easy thing to do. I have seen relationships actually strengthened when an upset customer felt you listened to them and took action to make the situation better.
Even if they don’t have an order for you right now, take the opportunity to ask if they know anyone who they could recommend you to who could benefit from your services. If you can get 1 – 3 names from each of the people you talk to, you’ll have a great running start toward new business.
Remember, business is built on relationships. The closer you are to your customers and clients, the more business you’ll get. It’s when you start drifting away that you begin to lose business. As I’ve said earlier, this happens when we get busy and neglect the contact. Try reactivating your old accounts as I’ve described. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what develops.