I’ve been in sales since I was 15. My start was with the now-defunct men’s clothier Richman Brothers and my pay was based on minimum wage and commission. I did rather well compared to friends who had the traditional jobs at fast food restaurants in the 70’s. Why? Because I learned early on it is much easier to sell things to customers on a regular basis than always going out and finding new customers!
Soon after I started I created an index card file “database” with customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers and sizes. I also noted what they recently purchased and what trends they liked. My coworkers teased me about that corny card file and green box but I really didn’t care. When new merchandise came in I would call the appropriate customer -- and for the clients that were difficult to fit I held garments in their size. In my opinion I offered them excellent customer service!
Well folk’s, things really haven’t changed that much in sales over the last 35 years. Your best customers should be the ones who keep coming back. Your job is to treat them well so they wouldn’t think of going anywhere else.
I have adapted these principals to the pavement industry, first as material supplier and now as a business developer. In this article we are going to identify some of the things you can do to create “raving fans.” Raving fans not only patronize you and your offering but they recommend you to others. If you do your job well you will have repeat customers and a great referral system too.
1.Pick the Right Customer. Let’s begin by understanding that you have to pick the right customers to have repeat business. Prospects and clients that have multiple locations or very large properties are possible candidates. The reason I say “possible” is because you have to find clients that are the right fit for what you do. For example if you are a high-quality producer of pavement maintenance services then you won’t find huge success seeking out clients who always buy on low price. To get those jobs you would always need to be the lowest price and the other benefits you offer wouldn’t make enough of a difference to get you every order.
As a high-quality producer your customer is the one who appreciates that you show up on time, fill all cracks without leaving a bunch of drips or dribbles and is willing to pay for a sealcoat application that has the right amount of solids and is not over-diluted with water. Part of your job is to point out these differences in quality without bashing the competition.
2. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up! Contractors that offer lesser quality will not satisfy those clients’ expectations over a long period of time. So you must continue to follow-up even when you are not awarded a project you were quoting. When I coach salespeople new to the industry that don’t have a “book of business” built I remind them that proper follow-up is essential in developing relationships with prospective clients.
3. Communicate the Way Your Client Prefers. Back in the days of selling clothes we had two basic forms of communication: U.S. Mail (snail mail today) and the land-based telephone. Today you have numerous tools that include e-mail, cell phones, voice mail, client portals and even social networking. Why not ask your prospects and clients what forms of communication they prefer? You’d be surprised at how much this will improve response time.
4. Keep a Customer File. Today high-tech can play a huge role in your tracking and monitoring prospects and clients. My old card system has been replaced by CRM (Contact or Customer Relationship Management) software. There are a range of programs from basic and free to those that have sophisticated customized sales cycles and phone support to help enter data while you are out of the office.
CRM along with e-mail management and accounting software programs assist in all functions of communicating with clients and in understanding how much work you proposed vs. how much you were awarded. Did some work get done by the competition or perhaps wasn’t contracted at all due to budget restraints?