I just finished interviewing a very smart customer for one of my clients. He’s a high-level manager in a tech company, a buyer of my client’s business services.
During the interview, he explained how there were always two forces working against my client’s services: the comparable cost of accomplishing the same services in-house, and the fact that this customer is constantly pitched by competitive firms.
Every so often, his own manager comes in and asks, “Are you still getting value for your money?” The customer is expected to have proof at his fingertips when that happens. He wants to be able to say, “Yes, they accomplished X last quarter for Y dollars. If we tried to do the same thing in-house, it would have cost us Z more.” Or, “Yes, last month they figured out how to improve on the automated portion of this process, and now we are getting that part done twice as fast, with fewer bugs. They also told us about a new tool they’re using with other clients, and we’ve decided to add some new services to the contract.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? If the customer was able to say these things to his boss, my client would be able to keep this customer for a long time.
The problem is, my client isn’t reporting on their successes, or coming up with new tools and processes that the customer would love to benefit from. My client’s people are just doing the work, and since they’ve had this client for several years, they assume the client is happy and all is well.
My client has two problems - and an opportunity.
1) They are in danger of losing this steady business. The value that my client is providing is not strong enough to overcome the pressures his customer is feeling - to bring the business in-house, to prove to his boss that he is doing the right thing, and to keep him from being tempted by aggressive competitors. There are always other ways to accomplish something. A client who has signed up for a service always keeps an eye on the alternatives - which runs contrary to the typical company view of the situation, which is that “we’ve won the business, now we can focus on getting new clients.”
2) They could be generating additional revenue from their existing clients. It’s always cheaper and easier for you to sell new services to an existing client than it is to find a new client.
No one likes being “sold to.” Someone excitedly gabbing about something that has no appeal is not pleasant for the recipient, nor is it profitable for the gabber. But existing customers are more than happy to hear about new techniques, best practices, aggregate/anonymous data about what other customers are doing, and to discuss how those ideas and tools can be applied to their situation. They like it when someone who knows them is thinking about things that could help them, things that would make them more effective and respected.
Of course I am now going to focus on these issues with my client. Not only will the client be more likely to keep this customer, but after we make these new services work for the one client, we’ll be able to apply the model to additional clients. Revenue will go up.
Are you ignoring your current customers? Could you be offering them interesting and helpful information that would help them, and that would lead them to invest even more in your products and services? Could you be teaching them or treating them to tips and trends? Could you be establishing your company as a thought leader, separating yourself even further from your competition in your customers’ minds? Have you ever considered putting someone in charge of this kind of program?
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It is possible to increase your revenue by a nice margin, in just a few months, doing this sort of thing with your current customers. Interview them first, but don’t even bother doing this if you’re just going to talk “at” them instead of “with” them (see Chapter 3 of my book, Roadmap to Revenue, for specific interviewing instructions). If you really do take the time to listen - to understand their goals and needs - you will be able to come up with solutions that they will be more than happy to pay for.
You definitely have customers, right now, wondering why you’re not “sellling” them more of what they need. Are you going to ignore them?
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