Everyone who reads my blog knows by now that we work with Customer Relationship Software. It’s one of the applications in the aresenal of tools used by businesses to increase sales and customer loyalty. We use it ourselves as well. When you are a smaller business, you need every trick in the book to stay on target and generate new business.
One of the things that happens to everyone, not just small business owners, is we get caught up in the day to day minutia and work that comes across our desk. In tough economies we are in survival mode, ensuring that we have work now and more work coming in the door. We answer the calls from new prospects or work on projects that current clients have requested. It is all about fire prevention or finding new leads.
What we tend to forget to do is reach out more often to clients we already have but have not talked to in months. I know this and advise my customers on approaches on how to look at their CRM for contacts that have not been contacted in over 6 months. It’s a good technique. They say you need to reach out to a client at least 7 “touches” before a sale happens. That goes for existing clients as well. Turns out I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching.
So, several months ago, I assigned a project to one of my staff to call a list of clients who had not contacted us or responded to any of our newsletters for the last 6 months. We have new offerings and even though I talked about them in newsletters, this was another step in the 7 touches process. And it appears to be working. It was one such interaction that was the inspiration for the blog article today.
I take copious notes when on consulting calls- always have – and in fact purchased an electronic pen that records what I write so that I can capture those notes. I then put those notes in the history for the client. This turns out to be beneficial in many ways. It keeps my staff aware of the interactions and helps me remember, several years later, what the conversation was about. As a company grows and more work comes in, you need ways to keep track of what has happened, good or bad, so that you can respond appropriately in the future. It just makes good sense.
My staff member called a particular customer who was in the process of getting quotes for some additional requirements with their CRM, in this case ACT. He was pleased to hear from my staff person and said he had reached out to this other source because of their special capabilities. When that did not work out he had been referred to another consultant, different from us, coincidentally at the same time we had called him. This then prompted him to ask for us to send him a quote.
And this is where the “keeping track of interactions” comes into play. When I replied to him with his quote, I mentioned in my email some things we had talked about in our original conversation that had occurred back in 2009. I dont know about you, but with everything that is going on in my life, there is no way I would have remembered this discussion after 4 years. That’s the power of documenting discussions. When I then talked to him on the phone, he said “you had me at hello” meaning the fact I remembered this discussion was a sign of good salesmanship. Which is ironic because I do not consider myself a good sales person. I consider myself a trusted business partner who tries to know as much about my client as I can. If that is good selling, well, there you go.
During that conversation, as I talked to him about all the things we are doing to help customers do whatever they can to increase sales, he said he had made the right choice in calling us. We would be able to help him in more than just one application. Ironically one of the things he wants to do is write more blogs and struggles with finding content. As do I. And then it hit me that the interaction that just occurred between he and I was the result of both a project and a process and would be a good blog article. Many of my articles are spawned from events that happen. I told him as much and this article today proves the point.
In summary there are at least two morals to this story. 1) Reach out to your customer – nothing beats a real phone call. 2) Keep track of what you say to a customer – it will pay you back later. That way you can get the “you had me at hello” answer. It made my day.
P.S. I am going to get back on my “at least one blog a week” path for 2014. I hope everyone has a gloriously successful year.