Let's Do Lunch
By Dave Mattson, Sandler Sales Institute (courtesy of Al Simon, Sandler Sales Institute)
In today's environment, the cost of acquiring new accounts has skyrocketed. Studies over the years have shown that selling additional products and services to an existing client base can be more cost effective than spending time in new client development. With existing accounts, we have already absorbed the cost of acquiring the business. Our existing client base would utilize more of our services if only we had the foresight to ask for the business. Yet, we seldom ask.
So, how should we bring up the subject? One of the most successful ways to do this is to take your client to lunch. This enables the buyer-seller relationship to change. Inside the office, your client has a role to play and many demands to meeting. Inside the restaurant, you can focus on selling the additional business.
Follow these suggestions for a successful business lunch with your client:
Thank your client for the existing business. Tell the client you appreciate them. Let them know they are an important part of your business, and you will strive to maintain the partnership.
Review the history of the account with your client. The Sandler Selling System teaches us to have the client do the review. Ask for input as follows:
- How long have you been doing business together?
- How satisfied is the client with your services?
- How does the client feel you could improve your service, and in what areas?
- How receptive would the client be to giving you a reference letter? Most successful salespeople have a book of reference letters. Instead of extending the sales cycle by having a prospect call your existing client, you can pull out your reference book for immediate review. A reference letter enables your client to put their thoughts and feelings into concrete form. If your client has trouble putting thoughts and feelings into concrete form, it's helpful to go over the letter with them.
Ask what expectations your client has for the upcoming year. Ask how much business they have given you thus far. Then ask, "Based on where we are in the year and projects that you have going on internally, where do you think we will end up at the end of the year? What additional business would I be involved with?" Get that number. Use it to help forecast sales and check that reality with the number in your account plan.
Ask for a list of other upcoming projects or purchasing decisions happening. This will expand the scope of your business. Often, your client does not understand your full line of products and services. By having your clients explain what is going on internally, you can use your product knowledge to decide how to best apply it, and where.
Ask your client for the names of other people working in other departments within his/her company. Ask for the names of those in charge of purchases and projects within the scope of your expertise.
You will experience tremendous outcomes following these suggestions. The client will feel that they are an integral part of your business and are in partnership with you for the future. Asking for a reference letter from them makes them feel important, too. Furthermore, you will have a clear picture of what is ahead and a good roster of outside referrals.
Good luck, and bon appetit!
Al Simon is President of Business Development Improvement, Inc., an authorized licensee of the Sandler Sales Institute and a sales training, coaching and consulting group. 770-281-9090.