Seasoned VARs know that making a sale is always a significant achievement, and it’s a particularly fortuitous feat in periods of economic slowdown or decline. But even in the best of times, successfully convincing a client to give your product or service a chance should be cause for celebration.
However, as most sales experts are quick to point out, it’s often the second sale that is even more critical than the first in terms of your company’s long-term health and stability. After you’ve cleared the hurdle of the first sale, it’s time to focus on the process of transforming your new buyer into a long-term partner. Having a repeat customer to add to your stable of long-term clients can bring exponential returns down the road.
From an ROI perspective, repeat business is a win-win deal. Your client gets the benefit of dealing with a trusted partner and not having to start from scratch with another VAR, while you reduce the amount of time, effort, and other resources that the tedious process of breaking the ice with new prospects can often entail.
That’s why it’s so important to start focusing on the future even before the ink is dry on your first deal with a new client. Use these tips to help transform a transaction into a lasting partnership.
- Discuss future upgrade options from the get-go. From your very first meeting, make it clear that you’re thinking in terms of an extended partnership. Key your discussion to a number of sequential phases, such as one-year, two-year, and five-year plans. Demonstrate with your words and actions that you’re willing to commit for the long haul.
- Adopt a relational approach to customer service. Rather than regarding each interaction with a prospect, customer, or past client as a one-time-only event, adopt an approach to customer service that is based on relationships, rather than individual transactions. Place each encounter into the context of the larger relationship by referring to past meetings and scheduling future calls. This will help ensure that your client will return for subsequent sales, service calls, and upgrades.
- Ongoing communication is key. The onus of keeping client relationships alive past the first sale falls squarely on your shoulders. Develop a system for maintaining contact with your clients throughout the entire year. Although holiday greetings and quarterly calls to “touch base” are one way of doing this, aim for a less predictable pattern. Try to bring value and insight to each encounter. Inject more authenticity and consideration into your ongoing contacts, and you’ll likely be rewarded with more loyalty and buy-in from your clients.
- Position your firm as a worthy partner. Identify and work to eradicate barriers that could impede your ability to sustain long-term partnerships with clients. Does your firm present a professional image? Have you been able to cultivate a high-status reputation? Do you have the kind of clout and credibility in your industry to sustain long-term partnerships with key players in the field? Address any deficiencies that could limit your firm’s desirability as a long-term partner.
- Make loyalty worth their while. When you’re attempting to induce first-time buyers to stick around for the second, third, and fourth sales, incentives are a great way to help bolster your case, particularly in times of economic hardship. Special offers such as substantial loyalty discounts or reduced fees for service or maintenance visits can help stack the deck in your favor.
What steps do you take to entice first-time customers to stick around? Fill us in on your favorite customer retention tips in the comments.