Which is the easiest customer sale that you can make? A sale to a new customer that doesn’t know you or your company or one to an existing customer? Of course, we all know that the easiest sale that you can make is to the customer that you already have. And which customer has the lowest selling cost? Same answer, of course.
So, it’s interesting to me how little is done by the front line teams to understand where their customers are going. There is an old Chinese proverb that says “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. Great philosophy if you plan to backpack around Europe as a 23 year old, but hardly a good business philosophy. Yet, how well does your sales team REALLY know what’s important to their best customers? What kind of questions are they asking? Are they asking the same people or are they branching out to meet others within the account? Are your managers really in tune with what your customer wants, no…demands, today from their suppliers? If they are not asking, rest assured that someone else is. And soon, your best account will belong to your competition.
A fellow rep told me early in my career that “It’s easy to get an account, but it’s hard to keep them.” I think about those words often, because it keeps me grounded and on my toes. It reminds me that I always have to service my customer better than anyone else can. And that the definition of “service” is a moving target. What once passed for “value added services” are now the price of admission. They are no longer special, nor a differentiating strategy. That piece of advice reminds me that I need to stay sharp and stay ahead of my customer. As the industry expert, it is my job to lead customers where they need to go, and not the other way around. Simply put, if they have to lead me, then they don’t need me.
The front line team of any company should have a plan to make sure that they continually invest in staying educated on their customer’s strategies and goals. They should also stay on top of industry trends and new technologies. There should be plans to communicate information to all levels within your best customers, and at levels above your normal contacts. Customers want suppliers that understand their business, yet have very few that do. And there lies the opportunity! The best suppliers often look like employees of their best customers, seamlessly navigating from corner office to plant floor.
In today’s world, it is not enough to just supply products to accounts. You need to supply ideas and the leadership that confirms it is safe to bet his/her business on you. Invest in the accounts that you already have. It will open up new opportunities and be the easiest sale that you make.