Getting Inside the VORTEX

By Colleen Francis

An often overlooked source of increased sales is your current customer list. I am constantly amazed at the number of sales professionals and companies that do nothing to encourage repeat sales, up-sales and cross-sales within their own customer list.

As I write this, many of my clients are struggling with how to ensure they finish their selling year at or above target. My message to you is go back to your current customer list.

Your customer list is your most important sales asset. Not only is it easier to sell more to existing customers (because they already like you and trust you), it is more profitable. The most recent studies show that repeat sales are up to 15 times more profitable than new sales. If you are a business owner - this statistic should excite you! If you are a sales rep, take note that one reason repeat sales are more profitable is because repeat sales are faster. When I teach Sell More, in Less Time, and Make More Money™ we focus on relationship building to ensure you are capturing as many repeat sales as possible, for this very reason.

I should note that there are lists, and then there are lists. The sales rule of thumb is that a list loses 10% of its value each month of absent contact. So, 10 months of no contact with your customers means your list is worth nothing…and you might as well cold call. Relationship neglect results in many sales losses, including seduction by competitors and the loss of referrals which over time can result in 10's or 100's of thousands of dollars in losses for your business.

Your list is as valuable as the quality of relationship you have with the customers on your list their perception of that relationship. To sell more to the customers on your list you must transition your thinking from "customer list" to "building a relationship with my customer".

You can create a profitable relationship with your customers using the following components (read VORTEX):

1. Variety: Recent studies from the Information Marketing Association show that your current clients can tolerate up to 200 contacts per year before they will ask you to go away - as long as you provide a variety of touch points. You can't call a customer 200 times a year without getting on the do not call list. You can call, email, mail, fax, send them to your web store, use audio, video, attend networking events, trade shows & fundraisers, make in-person sales calls, use article placements in trade journals, and send gifts & advertising specialties. The reason customers can withstand up to 200 touches per year is because smart sales people know to mix up the media types they use to contact their customers.

2. Occurrence: How often are you in touch with your clients? Regardless of whether 200 touches is specifically appropriate for you, don't let the number cloud the real message: likely you are not doing enough. In my work, most companies and sales professionals feel that if they reach out four times per year, they are stalking the client. I believe that 26 is the minimum number of touches required per year for a truly profitable relationship. Using component #1, Variety, you can build strong relationships with your clients by delivering valuable information on a regular basis using a variety of media types. Once every two weeks will not be overwhelming.

3. Reliability: All 26 touches should arrive as expected and anticipated on a regular schedule. You might consider sending a monthly email, combined with a monthly hard copy newsletter at 2 week intervals. You could advertise a free monthly web or tele-class for your clients on product training or business topics complimentary to your products. Trust is built with consistent behavior over time. Consistently and reliably delivering your message to your clients will demonstrate you can be trusted to deliver what you said, when and how you said it. Client's don't like surprises, they like results.

4. True: In order to build a relationship with your clients you must maintain constant contact with them without lapse or interruption. What do you think would happen to the relationship with your spouse if you unexpectedly didn't come home one night, didn't call, didn't email or attempt contact and then arrived home again unexpectedly 3 months later? When you don't call your friends for weeks at a time, does your relationship grow stronger or weaker?

I have often thought that the sales relationship is similar to the dating or courting relationship. Regular contact at consistent intervals is key to people believing and trusting you. You can't build a personal relationship without regular communication. Likewise with business relationships. If you don't call, your clients will build a relationship with someone else (i.e. your competitor) who does.

5. Engaging. Be entertaining and friendly, yet professional. Remember that all selling (B2B and B2C) is selling to humans. Your clients want to have fun, they want to laugh and they want to be entertained. Don't go too far or you sacrifice your message. Which airlines command the most customer attention during the pre flight safety announcements - those on Southwest and WestJet, or those on the traditional airlines such as American, United, Air Canada and US Air? Southwest and WestJet are more engaging because they make the announcements fun and friendly while still being professional.

Make sure that every contact attempt you send is worth opening, reading and acting on. A banking client of mine recently sent 30 invitations to an art auction to his best 30 customers. It was a fun event, sponsored by his bank that showed a more human side to their business. All 30 said no, but six proactively asked for follow up appointments because they wanted to revisit their portfolios and add new services.

6. Excellent. I don't mean always using the best paper and the most expensive pen. What I mean is to be sure to include information, education, entertainment and other interesting "stuff" that is relevant and valuable to your clients from, delivered from an interesting person: you. Don't just "pitch" your clients each time you reach out to them. Share interesting ideas, your favorite books on business and your thoughts on articles they might find useful. Remember that you are a human, selling to a human.

As defined by www.dictionary.com, a Vortex is something "regarded as drawing into its powerful current everything that surrounds it" Ideally this is how you want your customers to react to you. Creating a relationship Vortex means you draw towards you everything you touch, and, combined with the power of referrals those people your client's reach out to will also be drawn in. Thus your network and circles of influence are expanded and the power of the VOREX is increased.

Using the 6 VORTEX components as your guide, here are some contact ideas to try as part of your 26 touches a year:

  • Thank-you card (hand written, personalized and not on corporate stationary).
  • Monthly e-newsletter
  • Monthly hard copy newsletter
  • Weekly fax or email on top tips for using your products
  • Invitations to seminars - live or on the web
  • Advertising specialties, sent as a thank-you, that your clients will want to use such as pens, mouse  pads, calendars, etc…
  • Birthday cards
  • Company anniversary cards
  • Invitations to trade shows and conferences
  • New product announcements (separately or in a newsletter)
  • Market reports or analyst reports
  • White papers

You want your customers buying from you because they have a stronger relationship with you than any other provider. You have created a VORTEX relationship when your clients think to come to you first even if it is less convenient, feel guilty about dividing allegiance and readily refer you to others. You will have more permission, more tolerance and more acceptances of your promotions and offers when you have achieved this VORTEX relationship.

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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