Small customers come and go. But when you lose a large customer, it can be both a financial and psychological toll for you and your entire sales team.
After the finger-pointing and blame games die down, everyone needs to take a step back, take a deep breath and evaluate what happened and how to prevent future losses.
Here is what you need to consider –
1). Why did you lose the customer?
How do you find out? Ask. Sure, sometimes customers will be evasive and give you wishy-washy answers, e.g., the budget or a change in upper management. Sometimes those answers are correct. But if you to feel that’s not the case, you need to dig deeper. There are several reasons why customers will leave you. Examples range from a competitor offered a better deal, to your customer felt your pricing increases were getting out of control.
2). Did you see the signs?
Be honest with yourself. Were their signs there and you simply missed them? Examples include your key contacts not returning your phone calls or emails. Or, there was a sudden change in management. Or, maybe some of your key contacts got laid off, were fired, or quit. Did the financial outlook look bleak for your customer? Was there a merger or acquisition?
3). Did you stay in touch enough?
While you don’t want to be a pest, you should stay in touch with a large customer at least once a month. I don’t mean sending the usual “just checking in” email. I mean sharing important information that your customer might be interested in using for his business. Or making sure they know about the new features or benefits that were added to your product or service recently. Or, asking if others at your customer’s company would like to see a tailored made demo or online tour on how to better use your services better. Every time you contact a large customer, you must always add value. The “just checking in” email or phone call isn’t going to cut it because everyone is busy these days. We all want to feel special. Large customers are no exception.
4). Are you using your time wisely?
Of course, you should always provide excellent service to all of your customers, regardless of their size and revenue. But let’s the real here – everyone in sales is stretched thin these days. Like it or not, you must set priorities. A small customer who is only generating $500.00 a year in sales isn’t going to be as important as one who is giving you $50,000 in sales. Sure, you hope that the small customer will grow with you over time. But in sales, money talks and everything else walks. You must follow the money.
That’s why if you have a large enough sales team, you need to divide up the sales process so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Examples include –
One group that handles research for new prospects. This means using lead generation tools, Google, and other sources to find companies to contact.
One group that manages existing accounts. (And I would go further and divide up the tasks between small, mid-size and large customers). This means holding customer’s hands to ensure you are taking care of their needs and concerns. Examples include being a troubleshooter for billing or shipping problems, seeking upgrading or cross-selling opportunities, and being a watchdog to prevent your competitors from stealing your business.
One group that prospects and schedules sales appointments.
One group that conducts presentations (in-person or online). This group would probably be your closers. They are the ones to make the sales pitch, handle objections, answer questions, and hopefully will see the buying signals to move forward with the sale.
And depending on the size of your company, one group that devotes most of their time on the road attending trade shows and conferences. These are your road warriors. If your company has a large enough budget, these folks could be traveling for weeks, uncovering good leads at events and handing them off to the sales team.
By dividing up the sales process, you make certain that you prevent losing more large customers down the road.
So, you lost a large customer. It happens. Stop whining. Stop complaining. Stop blaming others. Get off your ass and make sure it doesn’t happen again.