From today’s mailbag: “Due to a variety of factors, I lost a customer’s business. How do I earn it back?”
Carson: You’ve been broken up with, or the relationship is on hiatus. How do you re-capture the old magic from someone who once believed?
1. Determine the reason for the split. If you earned the business once and if you did your due diligence of keeping your hand at the pulse of what mattered to your customer in the business relationship, you should either know why they drifted and someone caught their potentially wandering eye or you should have the rapport to be able to broach the topic. Did they find a cheaper competitor? Did they find better options elsewhere? Were they not seeing the results from your solution? Whatever it is, you need to have the conversation and be able to take that truth. Sometimes, you have some control over a counter-solution and sometimes you do not, but your initial step here is to find out the culprit.
2. Commit to addressing their concerns. You may not be able to provide the necessary options and discounts to earn back their hearts right now; it may be imperative that you visit with leadership or crunch the numbers again or introduce some new elements to the equation to formally formulate a plan. Do not be hasty in this step; sure, there may be some quick remedies you can address during your fact-finding conversation that could quell the pain and lessen their resistance toward you, but depending on the duration and quality of your relationship the decision to move on may not have come easily. Don’t hastily try to apply Band-Aid’s to their wounds; show them you are serious by committing to the action of a better plan to win their hearts by putting some serious thought into it.
3. Propose positive change. This is the part where you stand in their lawn with a jambox over your head blaring Peter Gabriel. While addressing their important concerns, you take ownership of past missteps, be accountable for what went wrong before and lay out the new plan for how things will be different if they give you another chance. Literally, you have a customer who believed in you at one point. It’s vital to revisit why you were the right selection then and reiterate why you are now as you also present how things will differ this time to address their concerns. In some instances, as you work with leadership or other teams and resources at your disposal you have the capability to tweak processes to their satisfaction, to find different ways of delivery that eradicate their objections and you can make a more succinct, efficient, effective program for them. Can you make a business case to your powers that be for better discounting and more options and special treatment? Great! Your customers want to feel and know they can depend on you to answer the phone, that you care about their needs and that you will deliver, take care of them and always have their best interests at heart. Much of keeping business is being consistent in these items and making them feel like they’re your only customer; much of getting them back is focusing on the strengths of your prior relationship but committing to change, really meaning it and sticking to it.
4. Respond accordingly. From here, you have said your peace; they will either accept the new deal or you will have to be patient. In some instances, you cannot meet all of their expectations right this minute; they’ll likely respect the attempt, and you can continue to keep in contact as your offerings evolve to their satisfaction. If you are the one who is continually trying to woo them and make overtures for their affections, it will really come down to what love and respect they are getting from your rival. If you show how important their business is to you, your willingness to respond and go to bat and change for them, the likelihood of re-earning the business of someone who obviously once believed in you will increase by leaps and bounds.
5. Learn from the experience. If your customers are having similar issues when you communicate with them around their experiences, you can modify your approach going forward for all customers. This can teach you to preface things differently, it can teach you to approach situations differently and will certainly prepare you to handle missteps along the way – both when they happen or to avoid them altogether by proposing process changes to your leadership team that will be in the best interests of all. Sometimes, you will lose a relationship or two, but that will be the driving force in getting change to take place that will earn and retain more business in the long run!
Customers – like all of us – need and desire and deserve attention and to have us genuinely at the heart of their concerns in the solutions we present, in the ways we service them and in the ways we retain them. If you’ve lost their love, you’ll need more than candles and wine – you’ll need a real plan on how you can tend to their needs, repair any damages from situations past and truly commit to positive change that can endure and stand the test of time.
Carson V. Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership. You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving. You will also be directly contributing to his third book, “A Salesman Forever.”
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Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be.
If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRVMI2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_yGXKtb0G28TWF