Managing clients that buy from you all the time is something everyone knows they should do, but sadly is very prone to fall into the realms of complacency. Taking advantage of your best customers by ignoring them while you chase new work is a trap most sales people have fallen into.
When discussing why this happens, multiple reasons are given - from reps feeling time poor, having targets that measure and place more emphasis on securing new work, not knowing how to add additional value to a client who is already buying, feeling that it’s somebody else in the organisation’s responsibility, through to being spread too thin, with too many people to look after to do it properly.
Given this wide variety of reasons, there is obviously no magic silver bullet. However, there are some basic things a company can do that can help manage and nurture current customer relationships well.
The first thing is to realise that looking after repeat clients fall at the perfect intersection of marketing and sales. It is marketing’s responsibility to determine the value of a client - often done as an A-B-C-D or Platinum, Gold, Silver Bronze. Having gone and done this, marketing then needs to determine how these clients will be serviced, given the resources available. This can include things like - number of newsletters sent, number of client contacts made via phone and frequency of these, number and frequency of face to face visits, value and frequency of gifts, offering of promotional material, business support and training, marketing support to name a few.
When it has been agreed that an A-client, for example, will be visited once a quarter, and will receive a phone call once a fortnight, it is then often up to the salesperson to execute this part of the marketing plan. The challenge comes when marketing’s idealistic plan meets the reality of busy customer schedules, with customers being not available for the visits and the phone calls. Added to this is the complication that sales reps understand intuitively that client contact needs to add value to the client and if marketing has not sat down with sales to work out what value needs to be added on each contact, it is highly likely there will be a lot of procrastination and missed client contact targets.
If a realistic plan has been developed, that the sales reps have bought into and they understand, it is the role of the sales manager to ensure that the systems and processes make it as easy as possible for the rep to achieve the goal set. The old adage that what gets measured gets actioned is very important to remember at this point. If there is more emphasis and focus on securing new clients, then it is highly likely that the routine calling will drop off. Part of making it easy for a rep to do the important tasks is to clarify those tasks and then to show the importance through weekly reporting and discussion on key metrics - often called key performance activities and key performance indicators.
From a sales rep’s perspective, with the support of a marketing department and a sales manager, the emphasis is around personal discipline and working out when you are most effective at work, planning your day and your energy to match what is required of you in any given day. This can often require some frank self analysis and a willingness and ability to be honest with oneself, and vulnerable in looking for help where it is required to improve in areas that you might not be naturally strong at.
Key account management is an essential part of any business that has repeat clients. When the systems and structures are in place to facilitate this, combined with the willingness and abilities of a good team, it is a lot easier for a business to be effective.