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Customer Lists: Worth Their Weight In Gold [NASE Experts]

Jun 25, 2012

Posted by Gene Fairbrother (NASE Lead Business Consultant) - I’m sure many of you have received emails from companies advertising how they will sell you leads for new business. While I am not refuting what these folks have to offer, many of you already have some gold sitting in your filing cabinets or on you computer in the form of old sales orders, contact reports, or customer lists. A little prospecting through those old files could payoff in found revenues and add to your bottom line.

It's been my experience that after a business responds to an inquiry from potential a customer the information gets filed away or added to our data base and then forgotten. Even for existing customers, once the bill is paid, most businesses don’t have a very good ongoing contact program with customers to keep them throwing money at the business. If you fall into this category a lot of potential dollars might be slipping through the cracks or into the pockets of your competition.

To help prove my point, if you remember the '80s, you'll likely remember how the Chrysler Corporation was delivered from the brink of bankruptcy by Lee Iacocca. What was the marketing philosophy Iacocca used to rebuild Chrysler? It was building communications with existing customers. In essence, using a customer list to prospect for new revenues. I just happened to own a Chrysler in the late '80s and I received numerous letters from Lee himself trying to get me to trade my car for a newer model or persuade me to convince one of my friends to buy a Chrysler.

So how can you use customers and contact lists to improve your sales? The first thing you need to do is develop a data base of everyone you have ever done business with. Of course rebuilding this from sticky notes might not be so easy, but I can tell you that it will probably produce more results than buying a brokers list of people who have never heard of you. You also need to religiously build on that data base with the contact information for everyone who wants more information about doing business with you. Then you begin categorizing your database into active customers and prospective customers.

If you already have a communication program or use one of the Internet programs like constant ... great! Then ask yourself the question, Are you motivating these “sales people” to market your business for you? Do you know what their needs are or have you reached out to get referrals from them? If not, you're letting a valuable sales asset go to waste.

Every existing customer should be considered a sales representative of sorts and just like “sales employees,” they need a little motivation from time-to-time to get the job done. Consider putting together a short newsletter or email blast with articles about how other customers have brought you new business, the new products you're working on, or special promotions you're running for loyal customers.

Another way to capitalize on your existing customers is to develop a routine to telephone 10 to 15 customers a week just to let them know you appreciate their business and want to make sure everything is going well. Just don’t get sales pushy and try to turn a courtesy call into a sales pitch - you want to leave the impression of how much you appreciate them!

For prospective customers that never quite added anything to your bottom line, the rule here is to never consider a sale “lost.” I have a hard time accepting how a lot of businesses treat the people that fall into this category; I hear them referred to as “tire kickers” or “lookers” and a few other names that wouldn't make it into print.

When you don't close a deal play detective and find out why the person didn't buy. If you lose a sale because a prospective customer was looking for a certain feature that wasn’t available and that feature becomes available at a later date, if you have a good customer tracking system in place you'll have another attempt at a sale. “Prospect” lists also give you the opportunity to follow-up every few months to track those people who take a little longer to make decisions. If you religiously follow-up on prospects, you're almost guaranteed to see “lost” sales turned into new customers.

Prospecting lists do take time, effort, and good organization, but when done right you’ll have a marketing program that sure beats cold calling or trying to create new public awareness.

Customer lists are a valuable marketing tool and can be a source of new revenue dollars. Don't throw away the chance to increase sales by thinking that because a customer is getting good service there isn't something more you can sell to them or that they don't know someone who needs your products or services. In the same vein, just because someone doesn't buy from you the first time doesn't mean they won't be interested six months from now ... maybe you just got them on a bad day.

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