In pursuit of new accounts, distributor sales teams can lose sight of the goldmine that is their existing customers, who are ready to buy more products, services or both. It costs five times as much to secure a new customer than to keep an existing one, according to conversion consulting firm Invesp — and the next competitor is always just a screen tap or mouse click away. Distributors who brush up on their retention selling tactics can see financial gains while helping to keep the competition at bay.
Interviewed for a recent MDM article, consultant John Kehoe, a longtime distribution executive, said he expects distributors to increasingly focus on retaining their existing clients and prioritize retention selling in 2020.
Why Retention Selling?
Retention selling focuses on increasing the number of repeat customers (and the profitability of individual existing buyers) for a business. Tactics include using data to examine historical purchase patterns and figure out what your customers may need next; picking up on “churning” signs early (and then intervening quickly) and targeting VIP customers with special offers.
“A commercial strategy focused solely on attracting new business and maintaining status quo with existing accounts will no longer suffice in today’s B2B sales environment,” Gartner points out. “Sales teams must figure out how to balance retaining and growing existing accounts if they’re going to stand up to competition in the long term.”
3 Ways to be More Customer-Focused
To better balance sales growth with customer retention goals, Gartner tells companies to focus on customer improvement. “Account management teams that can deliver ongoing customer improvement conversations increase their ability to grow that account by 48% and increase the likelihood of renewing or retaining the same amount of spend by 94%,” Gartner reports.
For this strategy to work, sales leaders must help teams deliver customer improvement consistently. “Our research shows that it’s important for leaders to know that this isn’t only about seller skills,” Gartner says, “but [also] about organizational support, enablement, tools, and team design.”
Here are three starting points:
- Give customers a unique, critical perspective on their own businesses and markets that they previously failed to appreciate or acknowledge. Point out something new, help them solve a pressing pain point that they didn’t even know about or give them the tools they need to compete more effectively in their own markets.
- Paint a vision of the customer’s future business. Make these conversations forward-looking (e.g., “Here’s what we’ve done with you over the past year in our relationship.”) versus just reviewing past experience.
- Provide customers an ROI on the whole commercial relationship. “Customers want to see the overall value of their partnerships with suppliers,” Gartner says, “not just ROI on products, services and solutions.”