Stay In Touch
How often do you pick up the phone and call your existing customers? Almost certainly not as often as you should. Yes, it takes time away from other sales activities. But think of the five minutes you spend talking to your best customer as “customer insurance.” As a rule, the more important your customer is, the more frequent your check-ins should be – but don’t neglect any of your customers. You’re also not just limited to using the phone;email and even snail mail can be great ways to maintain contact.
When you call up those customers, don’t just say hi. Always try to find a way to offer something of value. It could be a fact you’ve uncovered that’s relevant to your customer’s business. It could be a news article that’s appeared recently that somehow relates to your customer. Or it could be a suggestion you’ve come up with on how to maximize the return they’d get using the product they’ve already bought from you. If a customer starts thinking of you as a valuable resource over and above what your product does for him, he’s far less likely to drop you for a competitor.
Ask your customers to let you know after they’ve been approached by a competitor. If you have a good relationship with the customer already, you can just request it as a favor. For new or very major customers, you might want to offer some kind of bonus – like a discount on their next purchase or a freemium of some kind. Once your customers are trained to tell you about any poaching attempts, not only will you have a much better chance to salvage the relationship, but you’ll have an excellent opportunity to spy out your competitors’ strategies. This will help you to anticipate and beat off future attempts.
Become a Resource
The more you know about your product and the related industry or industries, the more valuable you can be for your customers. Encourage them to ask you questions, and if you don’t know the answer, find out. This will make your relationship with them much stickier, because even if they’re tempted to ditch your product, they’ll hesitate to lose you as a source of information. Build up your knowledge base by reading industry-related books and magazines and by mining information from coworkers in engineering and customer service departments.
If a particular competitor has been approaching or stealing your customers, it’s time to turn the tables on him. Go after that competitor’s customers, and you’re likely to distract him from his poaching and turn him instead to guarding his own accounts. Once you’ve built an intelligence network with your own customers, you’ll be able to launch attacks on competitors at the first sign of poaching; a great way to stop them before they really get started.
Prepare for Price Wars
When a competitor gets serious about building new business, he’ll ofte, n start by dropping his prices to ridiculously low levels. You’ll need to be ready to respond to such undercutting as quickly as you can. Providing extra value will help you to lay the groundwork and at least get your customers to think twice before they jump ship. And when the inevitable happens and a customer calls to say that Company X is offering them a super price, you need to have a list of reasons on hand why your product is still a better deal.