Customer care and follow-up. Your first sale to a customer may be profitable, but it's the follow-up sales that really help.
It's an instance of the 80-20 Rule: 80 percent of your profits and revenue will come from just 20 percent of your customers. Implication: your present customers probably offer the greatest potential for profitable repeat business.
Further implication: once you've made a sale, follow-up in a professional manner. As Mom said, "Always say thank-you." That customer care and follow-up could take the form of a phone call now and then to see how your product is working. Or it could take the form of a hand-written note (of which, more below).
Still further implication: follow-up even with past or lost customers. Things (and faces) may change. Even those who weren't satisfied with you then may find that your competitors are worse. (Oops! Not a good way to express that, but you get the meaning.)
It costs five times as much to find and sell a totally new customer as to sell to an existing customer. So for every dollar of selling costs you spend to get a reorder from a present customer, you can expect to spend five dollars to get an equivalent sale from a totally new customer. (Source: my Selling 101, page 185.)
One study found that the odds of selling more to a new customer were 1 in 16, while the odds of selling to an existing customer were 1 in 2. 9 If you keep track, your ratios may be different, but likely in line with these.)
Thank you notes
What triggered these thoughts was a very pleasant hand-written note I received from Beachside Dental in Vero Beach, Florida. I was there over the winter for a lost filling, which Dr. Matt Henry fixed on the spot. We talked about a crown as a longer-term repair, but my plans changed and time ran out to have that done this trip, so I had to cancel the follow-up.
Nonetheless, Debi Smith, scheduling coordinator from that office sent a hand-written note thanking me for coming to Beachside Dental, making it clear they would be pleased to work with me next trip, or, if something developed in the meantime, to forward the X-rays to my dentist up north.
The hand-written note was a nice touch. It took time, but it was personal. I will definitely remember Beachside Dental next trip back.
True, writing thank-you's take time, time that you could spend meeting new prospects. But see the stats above--- writing the note to keep an existing customer (where the odds are 2-1 in your favor) takes far less time than finding, phoning, and meeting a new prospect (where the odds are only 1 in 16 that you'll get the sale).
(Granted, there ARE some people, I must say, who should NOT send hand-written customer-care follow-up letters. My handwriting is so bad, I'm often told, that I could have been a doctor. Ah, but now even doctors are being trained to write clearly.)
Hmm. Just occurred to me: maybe there is an idea for a new profession: people with nice handwriting could become free-lance thank-you note writers! Just a thought.
The content in this post has been adapted from my books, How to Sell Face to Face: Survival Guide, and Selling 101. They are available in various e-book and paper editions; see below:
Survival Guide: Order paperback edition via Amazon
Survival Guide: Order e-book as Amazon Kindle (Amazon offers free apps that enable you to read it on your PC, Apple I-pad, I-pod, Blackberry, and others)
Survival Guide: Order e-book via Kobo, usable on various kinds of e-readers
Selling 101 (third edition): Order e-book as Amazon Kindle (Amazon offers free apps that enable you to read it on your PC, Apple I-pad, I-pod, Blackberry, and others)