Tuesday, April 21st22.4°C
Sales Meeting Minute

Customer retention

It’s a generally accepted notion that acquiring a new customer is more expensive than retaining an existing customer.  Add to that fact a sluggish economy where businesses are scrutinizing budgets and considering alternative suppliers, and it’s easy to understand why it’s important to have a customer retention strategy in place.  After all, current customers (as well as past customers) have already demonstrated that they want and are willing to pay for your products and services.  It makes good sense to hold onto them.  Doing so is crucial to the growth and success of your business.

A sales guru once described a five-step magical process for customer retention.  The five steps are: 1) Follow Up; 2) Follow Up; 3) Follow Up; 4) Follow Up; and (you guessed it) 5) Follow Up.
OK, there’s nothing magical, or even remarkable, about the process. I suppose the guru was trying to drive home the point that if you don’t want your customers to drift away, then, in addition to normal buyer-seller interactions, you should maintain regular contact with them throughout the year.

Makes good sense.

But simply “following up” is not enough. The real “magic” is how, when, and in what manner you maintain contact. Making monthly “keep-in-touch” phone calls is not sufficient. So, let’s look at five follow-up strategies you can implement to cultivate a closer relationship with your customers.

1.    Send a “Thank You” card to new clients. (Yes, a card…not an e-mail.)  An elaborate pre-printed card with a foil-stamped company logo isn’t necessary…or desired.  A simple card with your hand-written message, “I look forward to working with you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any reason,” is all that’s needed.  Make sure to include your cell phone number and e-mail address.

2.    At regular intervals, send to your customers a printed copy of your company’s newsletter, or an article or white paper that is relevant to their businesses or industries. Add a hand-written note—“Thought you’d find this interesting.”

3.    Send birthday cards to your customers.  (You do know their birthdays, don’t you?)  Again, no elaborate card with a company logo or imprint. A simple birthday card with your hand-written note, “Enjoy your day,” is sufficient.

4.    Send information about new products or services to your customers. Add a handwritten call-to-action note.  For example, “Let’s discuss.  I’ll call on Tuesday at 10am.”

5.    Send customers printed copies of articles relevant to their personal interests. (Yes, you should know something about your clients’ personal interests.) And, as you’ve already guessed, add a personal note like, “Saw this in the Business Journal…thought you’d like to have it.”  

The underlying theme is: communicate in a personal manner.  Most salespeople are so focused on their work that they don’t take enough time to meet with, talk to, and listen to their customers.  Much of their communication takes place in a most impersonal manner—via e-mail.  While that’s a valid means of communication for day-to-day business interactions, there’s little room for it in a customer retention program.
Little things that you do throughout the year remind your customers that you are thinking about them and you care about and appreciate their business.  Customers who feel appreciated are much less likely to jump ship when your competitors come knocking at their doors.


Stay out of sales limbo!

Have you ever had a series of good meetings with a prospect … gathered all kinds of information … and given what you thought was a great presentation … only to receive a response like, “Let me think about it”? Or, “I have to share all of this with my boss”? Or, “We’ll get back to you”?

And then you never heard another word?

You landed in sales limbo — the perpetual exile prospects call “very interesting” — for one reason and one reason alone. You didn’t qualify the prospect’s decision-making process. Prospects have a process by which they make buying decisions. It is important that salespeople uncover this process before scheduling any presentation. Most salespeople make an effort to ensure they are talking to a decision maker, but they don’t always find out who else plays a part in the decision process, what exactly the approach is, how the decision is ultimately made, or what the time frame for making the decision is . . . until after they’ve made their presentation or submitted their proposal. Without this knowledge in advance, the salesperson risks making a presentation of the wrong information to the wrong person, at the wrong time, and/or in a manner inconsistent with the prospect’s decision-making process!

As you uncover the problem, the available budget for solving it, and decision-making process elements of the opportunity, you must constantly evaluate the opportunity to determine whether or not it meets your criteria for a “qualified” opportunity. If you do get far enough along in the process to make a presentation, your prospects use that presentation to evaluate your product or service to determine whether it meets their criteria for a best-fit solution for their needs. It only makes sense for you to discover those criteria, including the decision making process, in advance of your presentation! After all, if you don’t know what will be expected of you during your presentation, or how or by whom your product or service will be judged, how can you even begin to plan an effective presentation?

For some types of sales, a prospect’s decision-making process may be simple — made by a single individual based on just one or two criteria. In other cases, the process may be more complex. The decision may end up being made by several individuals, each of whom has his or her own perspective and concerns about the purchase, as well as differing degrees of influence and leverage on the decision. All too often, in those more complex situations, salespeople deliver presentations knowing only a few of the relevant criteria, to people who cannot, on their own, say “Yes!” That’s why it’s so important to uncover a complete description of the decision process before you begin formulating solutions and developing proposals or presentations.

If you cannot meet the requirements of the prospect’s decision-making process, or if some aspect of that process (such as the timing of the decision) is inconsistent with your goals, then the opportunity is not a good fit and should be disqualified.

Here are the kinds of questions that will give you good information about the decision-making process:

  • “How are you planning to make the final decision?”
  • “Who else is going to be involved in that?”
  • “By when do you need to make the decision?”
  • “How would you go about making the decision to work with one vendor rather than another?”

If your prospect is unwilling to share this information, then it’s very likely that there’s something going on behind the scenes that is not necessarily in your best interest. If you can’t fill in the blanks, disqualify the prospect.

In most cases, when you ask these kinds of questions respectfully, as one professional to another, one of two things will happen. You’ll either get the other person to open up, and get a much clearer sense of what the decision-making process is … or you’ll get a clear indication that this opportunity is not really worth pursuing. Either way, you’ll stay out of sales limbo, and your closing ratio will go up!


Copyright 2015 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit www.glennon.sandler.com

Arrogance sank the Titanic

"Captain, Titanic – Westbound steamers report icebergs and field ice in 42 degrees North from 49 degrees to 51 degrees West, April 12. Compliments, Barr."

The message was delivered to Captain Smith on the RMS Titanic who made no alteration to his course. When a second warning came in, the captain brought it with him to lunch, eventually handing it to Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line. Ismay kept it in his pocket for five and a half hours before posting it on the ship's bridge.

A sixth message on the subject that day, came from The Mesaba, which warned that The Titanic was heading straight for a vast belt of ice, stretching some 78 miles across her path.

In the wire room at 11pm, Jack Phillips was so fed up with warnings that his response to the California's announcement was that "We are stopped and surrounded by ice." and "Shut up, shut up. You’re jamming my signal. I’m busy."

Forty minutes later, the 'unsinkable' Titanic had hit an iceberg. Two hours and 15 minutes later she slipped beneath the icy waters to make her 4km to the bottom of the ocean, taking 1,500 souls with her.

Arrogance happens when, in the presence of warnings and the absence of evidence you believe you know better. Arrogance sank the Titanic.


Arrogance causes you to:

  • Stop asking
  • Stop listening
  • Stop learning

Salespeople are arrogant. Great salespeople are aware of their arrogance and manage it well.


Rooting out Arrogance

  • Believe that you are second best. You will not come across as arrogant and you’ll try harder.
  • Remind yourself that being smart and intelligent is not an achievement. You did nothing to deserve it.
  • Be thankful for what you have, every day.

Arrogance sank the Titanic. Don’t let it sink your sales career.


Copyright 2015 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit www.glennon.sandler.com


Are you asking the right questions?

Have you ever had this happen to you?

You are in the middle of your second or third good discussion with a prospect and everything seems to be going great. The prospect seems engaged and happy to work with you. 

Then prospect poses an innocent sounding question, "So, how big is your company?"

Without hesitation, you answer that question. You recite, more or less verbatim, the standard reply you were trained to recite when people ask you about the size of your company. The answer laid out for you in your orientation workshops, promotion materials, and brochures: 500 employees, one headquarters location, three regional offices, and six assembly facilities in three states. 

The prospect nods and the conversation continues.

Although there are plenty of smiles, pleasantries, and earnest promises to be in touch as you wrap up your meeting, the oddest thing takes place once you leave the building... All forward motion stops. 

The prospect no longer returns your calls. Your emails receive ambiguous replies and weeks pass by. You're off the prospect's radar screen. You find that no one else in the company seems willing to acknowledge your attempts to reach out. It's like the prospect has ordered everyone in the enterprise to deny your company's existence.

What happened?!? You answered all the prospect's questions!

David Sandler advises that you should only answer your prospects' questions if doing so can help you... or at least it can't hurt you.

Since prospects tend to "smokescreen" their questions - meaning that they tend to ask questions whose true purposes aren't likely to be clear to you at first - you must make sure, first and foremost, that you're answering the real question.

Guess what? When that prospect so innocently asked, "How big is your company?" the real question was: "Will you be able to handle an 11-state distribution schedule?"

As it happens, you can handle an 11-state distribution schedule. But the answer your company taught you to repeat only mentions three states. And that was enough (non)information for this prospect to tune you out... without telling you why. 

In most cases, and especially in the early going, you have to assume that every question you hear from a prospect is a smokescreen question. 

So the question, "How soon can you get shipment to us?" may mean, "Can you get shipment to us by 10:30 Thursday morning?" The question, "How strict are you with quantity discounts?" may mean, "Can I take advantage of the quantity discount and arrange for a 14-day split-shipment?"

If you make a habit of answering the first question you hear, you'll never understand the real question!

You must discover why the prospect asked you the question you just heard. You must identify the underlying intent. 

Intent: The importance and true relevance of the question to the topic of discussion.

If you don't know the intent you cannot respond intelligently. 

How do you identify the intent? By Reversing. 

Reversing is the strategy of responding to your prospect's questions and statements with a question. It puts the verbal ball back in the prospect's court. 

Reversing prevents you from attempting to mind-read. It adds clarity and completeness to the prospect's smokescreen questions and statements. It helps you uncover the underlying intent of those questions and statements. 

Some reversing questions include:

  • Why do you ask?
  • Why is that important?
  • What are you hoping I'll tell you?
  • Why did you bring that up just now?
  • What are you really asking?
  • What are you really saying?

Reversing must be done with caution. Firing back with questions in response to the prospect's questions may sound harsh. So in most cases, you will want to precede your questions with softening statements. 

  • That's a good question. And you're asking me that because...?
  • I'm glad you asked me that. What are you hoping I'll tell you?
  • Many people ask me that. And that's important to you because...?
  • That's an interesting question. Why do you ask? (What brought that up?)
  • Good point. And you brought that up now because...?
  • I appreciate you sharing that. I can't help wondering, what are you really saying?

Often it takes three or more reverses to get the prospect's real question. 

In this case, if you had asked effective Reversing questions, you could have gotten to the prospect's true question and confirmed that an 11-state roll-out was no problem. 

And you would still be in the game. 


Copyright 2015 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit www.glennon.sandler.com

Read more Sales Meeting Minute articles

About the Author

John Glennon is an authorized licensee of Sandler TrainingSM in the Interior of British Columbia.

John is an accomplished sales person and manager with over 17 years sales and sales management experience. Beginning in sales in 1990 as a sales representative, he progressed to territory manager, sales manager, division manager and national sales and marketing manager roles throughout his career.

In 1997, John became a student of the Sandler Selling System. This introduction changed his sales career and over time propelled John and his career to new heights.

Successful in accelerating growth through strategic leadership, John knows firsthand the value of a sales training approach that follows a learning philosophy of ongoing reinforcement. He is experienced in driving the behaviours, attitudes and techniques required of an effective sales team.

Sandler Training is offered on a regular basis from their Kelowna, BC training center and through innovative distance learning programs to the rest of the BC Interior.


[email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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