When working leads, for many the focus is on turning those leads into new business. Yet there is a more powerful way to view those leads that can result in more and larger sales, and that is looking at all new leads as potential new long-term clients. Long-term clients can become a stable revenue source for sales people and their organizations and lead to stronger sales numbers through continuing sales and by becoming an important source of new leads through referrals. Turning leads into long-term clients therefore merits the additional effort spent in the early sales stages to realize optimal returns after client conversion.
Put Follow Up Front and Center in the Sales Effort
All leads have the potential to become long-term clients, even if the initial relationship has not yet been established with your organization. One of the most important factors in a lead’s decision to commit to a long-term relationship is reliability; he or she needs to know that a sales person and his or her organization can be depended on and will be available when it matters most. You can begin cultivating this perception from the beginning of the sales relationship by following up regularly with all leads, providing timely and relevant information not only on your products and services but also with industry information and business forecasts. This follow up can be incorporated into a defined lead nurturing process to create a measurable system for converting leads into long-term clients.
Let Leads Know You Are Thinking about the Long Term
The power of suggestion can go a long way with leads, especially when the suggestion implies mutual benefit. By letting leads know that you have a long-term perspective and are looking to cultivate a durable relationship, you can cement the impression of reliability and gently influence leads to start thinking about establishing a continuing relationship as if it were their own idea. Leads who are looking at the long term will also be more open with you about their needs and future goals, which allows you to offer the best possible sale for everyone involved.
Encourage the Relationship After the Close
A sales relationship doesn’t end at the close, especially not for sales people who know the importance of long-term clients. To be meaningful, however, continued contact with clients who have long-term potential should go beyond the expected initial follow up call and truly address the need of clients to connect with a sales person who have their best interests in mind. You can do this by:
- Always being the first to make contact after delivery to ensure client satisfaction and positioning yourself to make implementation as smooth as possible.
- Asking for feedback about the sale and your relationship with the client on a regular basis to arrive at a deeper understanding with the client.
- Consistently providing the best possible service to exceed expectations, even on non-critical issues.
Reward Long-Term Clients for Loyalty
Long-term clients usually represent greater profit margins than brand new business. An increasing number of clients are aware of this and are expecting to receive tokens of appreciation as a result. Sales people can keep their long-term clients satisfied by being the first to offer rewards for client loyalty when possible. Even in an organization that does not have a client loyalty program, sales people can keep long-term clients coming back through other incentives such as:
- Extended warranty programs at reduced or no cost to the client;
- Reduced cost add-ons that fit the client’s business needs;
- Favorable discounts scaled to the client’s past spend.
Recognition of client loyalty through measures such as these lets clients know that they are appreciated, while maintaining healthy revenue for the organization. In this way, the client, the sales person, and the organization can continue to benefit from a strong and lasting relationship with long-term clients who were once only leads.