Increasing business with existing accounts could be the holy grail of sales.
Consider this: Revenue from existing customers accounts for more than 70% of total results at companies across industries, geographies and business models, the most recent CSO Insights Sales Performance Report found.
Sales leaders say increasing penetration into existing accounts is one of their top objectives in meeting goals. Why do they rely so much on the potential in existing accounts?
“Revenues are often more predictable than other sources and ideally, as the incumbent, (you) should have an advantage when it comes to renewing business,” say researchers Tamara Schenk, Yuri Dekiba and Seleste Lunsford.
Your accounts are good, but they could be awesome.
Before you attempt to build business with existing clients, you want to know you stand on solid ground with them. Relationships are key to success.
So first, let’s look at strategies to strengthen relationships with existing customers.
Be more responsive than any other supplier. That’s advice from AskForensics Knowledgebase. They found a big gap between what customers expect for response speed and accuracy and what most sales professionals deliver.
Customers don’t feel suppliers are committed if they can’t get effective and quick responses.
Note: Every function – not just sales – needs to respond quickly and accurately when customers need something. Customers will stay committed and buy more when everyone responds like the request is urgent.
Be a true consultant
Customers don’t have time to discuss tired ideas. You can increase success in selling to existing customers by providing innovative ideas regularly. There’s no “just checking in.”
You want to add value to their lives or business and your relationship every time you connect.
A winning strategy: Take what you’ve learned from other customers in similar situations to either relieve pain or increase success. Package your insights creatively – in guide, tip sheet, YouTube video, on-demand podcast – that proves you can help with business strategy.
Be a step ahead
New conditions call for new strategies. You want to be the partner who is a step ahead of changes in customers’ industry and market. Salespeople can build credibility and sales by giving customers some direction on how to prepare or plan for changes they may not even see coming.
Sign up – and pay attention to – every relevant industry and regulatory newsfeed. Alert existing customers to changes, and more importantly, explain how those changes will affect them and what they should do about the changes.
Become a library
You can increase sales with customers by becoming even more than a go-to expert. Be a library of information. Capitalize on the lead generation tools that already exist in your selling arsenal.
Regularly direct customers to resources that will either help them maximize how they use your solutions or learn something new. Create a blog or send regular email newsletters with tips and links to access more information when and if they want to. The more valuable information you share, the more customers will trust – and come to depend on – you.
Building relationships and increasing sales takes more than knowledge exchanges. You’ll want to connect on an emotional level, too.
When customers talk about their issues, tune into their emotions. They won’t always say they’re “frustrated,” “annoyed,” or “stressed.” But you can sense those strong emotions. More importantly, you want to acknowledge them.
Genuinely ask questions like these: “How does that make you feel?” or “That’s tough – how does it affect your stress level?” “How are you coping with this frustration?”
They’ll likely open up, and you’ll be able to build a better relationship when you show true concern.
You can build strong relationships within all of your existing accounts. But not every one of them is right for increasing business.
Consider things such as industry, location and size before you look to increase business. Some small organizations might not be ideal for more sales. Or you might be setting yourself up to miss fulfillment expectations if you try to increase business with a customer who is on the fringe of your distribution area.
You can also ask who’d like to build a more strategic relationship, showing them data and case studies about ongoing, successful partnerships.
Develop a customized plan for each customer who wants to build a strategic relationship. A generic plan won’t increase business.
Increase the breadth of sales
When you’ve built a solid relationship, you’ve earned the opportunity to ask for more business. These strategies are geared toward getting more sales with existing customers.
Increase your reach
Expand your pool of contacts within an account. Many of your customers have buying authority for their specific role, department or unit. Their colleagues with different buying authority might have needs that are ideal fits for your solutions, too.
When you visit, introduce yourself to your customers’ colleagues. Ask for referrals. Pepper conversations with questions about others’ roles and responsibilities that could align with your solutions.
Reach for another level
You likely know a lot about your customers’ customers. Now help your customers increase penetration with their customers.
Regularly pull together the kind of information you would for prospecting, but about your customers’ customers. Share insights, research, data and tips and how they can increase business with their customers – and your business success will follow.
Get more intimate with the buying cycle
You likely have a buying cycle that helps you forecast sales and predict some customer behavior.
As a sales pro who has a closer relationship with individual buyers, you want to – and can – get a more intimate view of your customers’ buying cycle. Follow how often they buy certain products and ramp up contact – or your marketing campaigns – before that.
Also look for intricacies – for instance, does it seem Dale always waits for Janelle’s input to finish his order? If so, you might want to invite Janelle to more meetings or make a point to touch base with her more often. Or maybe you see Dwayne’s supply run dangerously low before he contacts you. Now might be time to suggest automatic renewals.
Creep on customers
You don’t have to be creepy, but you want to closely monitor customers’, their company’s and their customers’ social media platforms. Yep, creep on them.
Watch for signs of growth plans, changing priorities or shifting directions. Those things are often first teased on social media by way of announcements about staffing shuffles, product launches or retirements, new partners and industry awards.
When you see this kind of news, immediately congratulate the company or contact. Then get to work on what you can offer and propose to strategically partner as part of the new situation.
Watch for maximums and minimums
Opportunities to up- and cross-sell to existing customers often exist in maximums and minimums. For instance, look at customers who are maxing out on your product or service each month. They’re likely suited for an upgrade or more extensive package. But don’t just suggest the service. Show how it will make them more effective, save money or increase profits.
On the other end, look at customers who are using the minimum of your products or services. It might not be a perfect fit. A different or complementary product or service could be ideal. If you can save them money, time or effort, show them. Customers will value a salesperson who steers them toward a smarter decision – and likely end up buying more in the future.
Think about before and after
What do customers do before they use your product or service? What do they do after using your product or service? Where does the product go? How is the service enhanced or changed?
Answering questions about what essentially complements your solution can open ideas to other services or products you can offer customers to increase sales. If you don’t have the additional product or service to offer, pass your ideas to your development and marketing professionals.
For instance, many trucking companies have added warehousing services because they often moved products from one company’s production to another company’s storage. Rather than just be the “middleman,” they became the next step, too.
Existing customers will buy more if they feel like they’re your only – or one of few – customers. To create that one-of-a-kind feeling, companies have built a customer success element into their sales cycle.
In fact, a Gartner study found Customer Success – the people who maximize business with existing customers – holds the key to growth. Why? Product or service performance doesn’t have a significant impact on customers’ decision to buy more. Aggressive selling doesn’t. And – surprisingly – exceeding customer expectations doesn’t impact their decision to buy again much.
But, when customers are confident in the people who continue to help them – whether it’s the salesperson or a customer success rep – they’re more likely to buy.
A customer success role will be a little different at every organization, but it should bridge the gap between sales and support – more proactive than service, not as aggressive as sales. Customer success pros watch for and act on growth potential. They can pass that opportunity to sales.
Ask about your competitors
When you’ve developed a strong relationship with existing customers, you’re in a better position to ask how they feel about competitors who have some or all of the business you want to get.
Ask what they like about the competition. You don’t have to badmouth the competition. Quite the contrary. You want to find out what you’re competing against and how you need to change, not how you need to change customers’ perceptions, if you want to increase business.
Prepare, act like it’s a new account
Create a plan for growing business with one or all of your existing customers as if you were in a prospecting situation.
Set goals and deadlines. Look at your results at set intervals. Then follow through, fine-tune and step back accordingly.
And recognize: Even if you don’t immediately see results, your “prospecting” efforts likely act as deterrent to customers looking at or doing business with competitors.