Does your company have trouble hanging on to customers?
There are many reasons a client might disengage with your company, many of which may be out of your control.
Competition may be stiff, the economy can cause clients to tighten their belts, and sometimes customers simply outgrow your services.
Some customers are even worth ditching if it costs more to keep them happy than they pay in billings.
But before you dismiss customer losses as typical, take a look at your company’s methods.
Ambitious sales goals can be great for motivating your sales team, but unnaturally fast growth can set your company up for excessive client losses, which will negatively impact the accuracy of sales planning and hurt the entire company in the long run.
Quality Deals versus Quantity Deals
Did you know that it is six to seven times more expensive to bring on a new customer than it is to keep one that you already have?
It is also much more economically efficient to keep a customer than it is to try to win back customers after they have left.
Think about how much time and money your company spends each month finding leads, qualifying leads, presenting to potential clients and closing deals versus maintaining current accounts.
Most sales teams are built to focus on upfront growth, which makes sense on the surface, but disregarding longevity when closing deals will make your company more susceptible to fluctuations in the market and the whims of clients, which ultimately puts more pressure back on your sales team.
Sales is known to be a high-pressure field, and sales planning should always be ambitious, but financial instability stresses everyone out in a way that is more likely to hinder productivity than help it.
According to Dan McDade, author of The Truth About Leads, in order for healthy and stable growth, your company needs quality deals with long-term customers even more than it needs new customers.
How to Achieve Sustainable Sales Growth
1. Gather data.
Does your company track its sales? If not, you should start.
The knowledge you can gain just from keeping track of which contacts turn into leads, which leads turn into sales and which sales turn into lasting relationships is invaluable.
When you have collected data on closed deals and the length of average customer relationships over a period of time, start paying attention to which relationships seem to end more quickly than usual.
Do you notice any similarities in how those deals were made or where those customers were found?
With good data you can pinpoint problems accurately and use that knowledge to make efficient adjustments to your sales process.
2. Be assertive rather than aggressive.
Do your salespeople know the difference between assertive sales and aggressive sales?
Aggressive sales tactics tend to turn clients off early, but if your sales team uses them to pressure a client into a sale he is not really comfortable with, you can bet that customer’s chances of sticking around for the long haul are low. Assertive sales also put pressure on clients, but with much more tact and sensitivity to the client’s actual needs.
The key difference between aggressive sales tactics and assertive sales tactics is listening. Teach your salespeople to listen to the customer and respond to objections with questions rather than ultimatums.
Asking questions builds trust between salespeople and customers and will give your company more insight into the long-term potential of a deal.
3. Evaluate your qualification process.
Where are your leads coming from? What criteria do you use to determine whether or not a lead should be pursued?
If you are losing customers often, you are probably not finding them through the right channels and you are likely not spending enough time vetting them.
Think: who specifically is your ideal client, what problem does your product solve for him and how can you position yourself to meet him when he is ready to buy?
If you have gathered data on previous sales and current client relationships, you should use that knowledge to modify your qualification process.
In his article How to Recognize Which Customers Are Bad for Business, Joe Worth explains that not all leads are equally valuable, so try being a little bit pickier about which ones you decide to spend your company’s money and time chasing.
If your salespeople are qualifying their own leads, they need to be taught to see the difference between a promising lead and one that is not a great fit for your company, even if that client could possibly be persuaded to buy.
4. Incentivize quality over quantity.
Salespeople are motivated by structure, competition and clear goals. Upfront growth happens because salespeople measure and earn commissions on new sales.
It goes against the nature of a rookie salesperson to pass up on a less than “ideal” lead (and the accompanying commission) for any reason, so he may need to be helped to see the value of skipping mediocre leads for the sake of the company’s long-term stability.
It is in everyone’s best interest to acquire quality clients, but the acquisition of those clients is in the hands of a salesperson who is motivated by numbers.
To better align the interests of the sales team with the company as a whole, consider building rewards into your compensation plan for when deals last past the six month mark, the two year mark, or whatever length of time makes the most sense for your product.
If restructuring your sales team’s compensation is not an option, consider using other motivational tools like competitions or quarterly awards to get your team to care about quality leads more than just quantity.
5. Take a look at your product and your competitors.
If you have done the work as a manager to understand your customer, qualify your leads, and train your sales team but your company still struggles to keep customers, you might have a problem that needs to be addressed higher up the ladder.
The information you collect when you track your sales and teach your team to qualify leads can help your company figure out why it might be losing clients, refine its product and stay competitive.
6. Make quality hires.
Training, data tracking, and strategic incentives can help you find quality clients, but all these things will have little to no effect on the quality of your customers if your sales team does not have the Drive required to successfully implement changes. Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism are the elements of Drive that make great salespeople, and these elements are difficult to spot in the typical hiring interview.
The best way to determine if a potential sales hire has what it takes to help your company succeed long-term is to utilize an accurate sales aptitude test during the hiring process. Hires with Drive, when managed well, will have no trouble helping you shift your company’s focus from quantity of sales to quality customers and sustainable growth.