The best way to make sure the long term customer knows you’re not taking them for granted is to make it a practice to continually sell them. Advertising works best when it’s presented constantly over time. The message and the medium are important, but the repetition of the message—the frequency with which a customer sees the ad—is paramount. Good customer relations are built the same way: continual selling.
As you practice continual selling, watch out for a few pitfalls. In most businesses, long-term orders are encouraged. A contract to deliver the product or service in increments over a period of several months is generally considered more valuable than a series of contracts to deliver the same volume written one month at a time. The security of the long-term contract is often so important that the vendor will grant a discount or other special terms to the customer who signs one. Salespeople recognize the value, too, because they know that it’s much more efficient to sell one contract than twelve.
But there’s a downside risk in long-term contracts, too. The salesperson often believes, either consciously or subconsciously, that they’ve secured all the business they’re going to get from that customer, so they stop selling them until contract renewal time comes around. In some cases (which are all too frequent), the customer won’t even hear from the salesperson again until it’s time to renew. This attitude not only impairs the relationship with that customer, but it blinds the salesperson to many good opportunities in the interim.
I’m sure that your company has a continuous stream of new products, repackaged lines, sales promotions, and maybe even a price change or two. The first place you should prospect to sell these is among your current customers. They’ve already shown their willingness to buy from you, so keep the boiler stoked by continually feeding it new fuel.
Your customer’s needs may have changed or new ones arisen since they signed that long- term contract. The contract itself may have left some money on the table or there may well be a “contingency fund” in the customer’s budget held back just for last-minute opportunities. You’ll never know unless you constantly offer them additions to their contract.
Another advantage of continual selling is that you are trying out new ideas on the customer all the time. That gives you frequent feedback on what the customer likes and doesn’t like, needs and doesn’t need. Whether you sell any add-ons or not, this is very useful information when it comes to renewal time.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides and Handbooks, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, and management strategy.