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The Secret to Great Sales?  Great Service!

By Ray Silverstein

for Entrepreneur.com

 

What’s your priority: Wooing new customers, or keeping your current ones happy?

 

Admittedly, there is no thrill like sealing the deal on a new account; that’s one of the things that makes sales so much fun. But as unglamorous as it may be, working to retain your existing clientele is generally much more profitable.

 

Studies show that it’s much more cost-effective to resell an existing customer than acquire a new one. One recent study suggests it costs 10 times more to win over a new prospect.

 

So when it comes to servicing your existing customers, you need to keep your eye on the ball. If you don’t “sweat the small stuff,” you may miss out on some big stuff. 

 

In our other lives, we’re all “customers,” too. Consider your own negative service experiences. I had one recently, which illustrates my point nicely.

 

My wife and I recently purchased a second home in Scottsdale, Arizona. The home required some minor repairs, to be followed in time by larger projects. We hired the local repair guy, Randy the Handyman, to make these small fixes…letting him know that larger projects awaited.

 

Randy’s first assignment: fix a leaky faucet. He put in his time and billed us accordingly. We assumed he did the work and paid it, only to discover later that (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?) the faucet still dripped.

 

We called Randy no less than four times. Did he ever return our calls? No. Will he ever get another piece of business from us? NO!

 

So Randy lost all our potential future business. And that’s not all. Our home is in a small, social community. Randy the Drip, as we’ve christened him, is now notorious throughout the neighborhood. No one will risk using him.

 

And because of the magic of the Internet, you’re now aware of Randy’s poor service practices, too. Who knows? Someday, you may find yourself in Scottsdale and find this useful. These days, consumers are hungry for input regarding service providers—as witnessed by the success of companies like Angie’s ListŪ.

 

The moral here is when you don’t provide good service, you forfeit all kinds of potential future business. You not only lose one customer, but others through word of mouth.

That’s why it’s so important to keep “selling” your existing customers. And you know what? It’s actually not that hard or time-consuming at all. For example:

 

  • Live up to your promises. If you say you’re going to do something by a certain time, just do it.
  • Be responsive. Find time in your day to return phone calls and emails promptly.
  • Be a problem-solver. Look for opportunities to offer helpful advice, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate sale.
  • Stay in touch. If you read an article that pertains to a customer’s industry or interests, send him or her a copy. Or send out regular email newsletters, filled with good information. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just useful.
  • Follow up after every sale to make sure your customers are pleased with their purchase. This not only ensures satisfaction, but gives you opportunities to improve your sales process.
  • Fix mistakes. If a customer isn’t happy for some reason, bend over backwards to make things right. Errors are a fact of life; it’s how you respond to them that sets you apart.
  • Wow your customers. Make yourself indispensable. Find way to exceed their expectations.

 

Acquiring new accounts is important and necessary. It keeps your business vital and growing. But don’t pursue new customers at the expense of your old ones. As they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush…or maybe as many as ten.

 

 

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