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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Tapping the potential of your existing client base

Make sure your sales staff is focusing on

Make sure your sales staff is focusing on customers with the highest potential for "up-selling" and "cross-selling." Credit: Getty Images / vgajic

Companies should always be filling their pipelines with new customers, yet there’s a wealth of untapped potential in their existing client base.

Too often, experts say, companies fail to communicate all their offerings or anticipate clients’ future needs, leaving the door open for them to lose this business to competitors.

The ability to “up-sell” and “cross-sell” products and services to your current clients can help boost revenues by 30 percent or more.

“You need to always be courting,” says Doug Davidoff, founder and CEO of Imagine Business Development, a Severna Park, Maryland, marketing and sales development agency, and author of “The 11 Laws of Accelerating Business Growth” (Imagine Media; $11.95).

When a company gets a customer, he says, what naturally happens over time is that the relationship becomes defined by the past. The focus remains on the job you did or the service you are providing, and you’re not talking about the future.

“It’s kind of like the difference between dating and being married for 20 years,” says Davidoff.

That’s why he encourages clients to make sure at least 20 percent of a conversation with an existing customer is focused on the future and not on the past.

He also suggests categorizing clients into four segments. The first: clients from whom you have gotten all the business you can get. The second: those you do solid business with but represent potential for growth. The third: clients you do a little business with but could be doing more. The fourth: clients you don’t do a lot of business with and don’t have the potential to do much more.

“A lot of times what happens is salespeople don’t do thorough account management,” says Colleen Stanley, president of SalesLeadership Inc. a Denver sales consulting and training firm, and author of “Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success” (AMACOM; $17.95). Group the customers in your database according to their sales potential, she says.

Without analysis, a salesperson can overlook opportunities. For example, with focus and a proactive pursuit strategy, you can move a “B” customer to an “A” customer because you have other lines of business you can sell to them, she says. Or salespeople put all their efforts into “C” clients and they’re fully tapped, says Stanley.

“You have to be crystal clear about where your opportunities are,” she says.

Adrian Miller, president of Adrian Miller Sales Training in Port Washington, says you also can’t ignore dormant accounts.

She looks at those accounts monthly to see who she’s not working with and for how long. She then may try to reconnect with both dormant accounts and existing clients with something of value.

“I either invite them to something or alert them to something coming up” — a trade show, for example, says Miller, author of “The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success” (Lulu; $14.95).

For existing clients, she may also set up a call or a meeting to do a review of the present work and let them know about any other areas she can help with.

“I think one of the reasons we don’t get as much business from existing clients is we take it for granted they know everything we do, and they don’t,” she says.

You need to educate and communicate with not only with clients, but with your sales force, says John Sena, president of JAS Consulting Inc., a Port Washington management consultant focusing on sales.

“The sales compensation plan should give the salesperson direction,” he says. For instance, if you want to focus on one product that’s relatively new, offer bonuses for selling it and give the sales force higher commissions, says Sena. It gives them an incentive to emphasize the new lines you’re trying to push, he says.

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