Years ago, before I hired a sales team, I would personally take, and make all our company’s sales calls.
On one memorable afternoon I received a call from a prospect – and after some initial pleasantries, I asked how I could help. The gentlemen replied: “I just read in the paper that my client moved to a new building!” You see, this disgruntled caller was a commercial real estate broker, and a tenant who he represented, in lease transaction years ago, had recently completed a new lease transaction with another broker. “Oh, I see” I replied. It was obvious that the caller recognized he had made one of the most fatal mistakes in sales.
While we all acknowledge that our best customers and clients are those we already have, and the easiest sales originate from our current client base and/or referrals from this valuable resource, most of us (particularly most salespeople) treat their customers and clients like prospects.
Whenever I speak across country, I ask my audience a simple question: “How many of you have past clients?” Of course, most raise their hand. I then ask them to spell “past”. In response they all concur, P-A-S-T. In return, I share with them by labeling their clients “past”, they are basically segmenting this most valuable asset as passed (as in P-A-S-S-E-D) – as in dead.
The categorization of your clients as “past”, is equivalent to the unfortunate entrepreneur on ABC’s Shark Tank being told by investor Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary – “You are dead to me”. You certainly would never intentionally say this to your clients and customers, but by all intents and purposes – you do this when you refer to your clients as “past”.
How does it make you feel when you hire a professional (perhaps a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or even your pool boy) and they never contact you after a service is rendered? Even more telling, is how you feel when they do follow up and check in. I recently underwent an outpatient procedure, and was pleasantly surprised when my doctor called my house to check in and remind me what I needed to do my first couple days back home. Perhaps he realized I was too drugged up to remember what he told me in the hospital just after the procedure, but more impressively – he called me again three days later to simply check in.
Let’s make this even more practical. My accountant reaches out to me every quarter and offers to come to my office or house simply to review my company’s progress over the past quarter, and be sure it aligns with my annual financial goals. Heck, my accountant even sits in on calls with my financial advisors to be sure my company’s performance supports my financial goals.
Now, you may believe this is not a fair comparison. The original caller was a commercial real estate broker who provides a service that is based on a single transaction, the lease of office space in this case, and not an ongoing relationship. And that mindset is exactly where the P-A-S-S-E-D client problems originate.
No matter the service you provide or product you sell, remember there is no such thing as a “past client”. All clients are your clients – you should continue to nurture them, provide value, and demonstrate your value regardless of whether a transaction or sale is imminent or not.
So if they’re not “past clients”, how do you refer to these clients that you are not currently working with? Simple, they are “inactive clients”. They are still your clients, but they are not currently transacting. You should still treat them as active clients, and have the mindset that they are and will always be) your clients, not your competition’s prospect. When you do this, your competition will know to keep their hands off of them, not to waste their time, as your clients are going nowhere. Treat all of your inactive clients so special that they will tell your competition, “Don’t bother, I work with (your name here)”. In other words, put your clients in position to tell your competition “You are Dead to Me.”
Have you read Rod Santomassimo’s book?
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