Let’s face it, almost every business and sales professional is feeling the impact of today’s soft economy. It’s no secret that there has been a shift in consumer confidence due to what is being referred to as “The Perfect Economic Storm”. Between gas prices, the mortgage crises, declining home sales as well as rising costs associated with almost everything being sold, it is surely a concerning time for all.
The reality for every business is that we will always face ups and downs. There will always be times better and there will always be times worse. The big question is always how to weather the storm and survive the changes to your marketplace long term, no matter what is happening around you.
During my career, I have seen my share of peaks and valleys. I have also worked with and for many companies who have struggled to stay afloat and had to make extremely difficult business decisions that impacted people in ways they never expected.
There is a very simple rule I often recite to sales professionals that rings even more true in uncertain economic times, but applies no matter what is happening. That rule is: There are two ways to grow your business. You can sell more to your current customers or you can sell to more customers. Pretty simple right? It sure is.
The important take away from that rule is to focus heavily on customer retention during down times. For every company, your customers are your most valuable assets. Here are a few tips and ways to retain customers that I have seen proven effective during my career.
Get Feedback From Your Customers
There is nothing that scares me more than a bunch of people sitting around a table discussing what they think their customers want without any true knowledge or information directly from their customers. Don’t make assumptions! People enjoy providing feedback and there is nothing more valuable than hearing feedback from your customers about what they need, what their concerns are and their perception about ways your company can improve. Most importantly, it shows your customers that you care and are willing to make adjustments based on their feedback.
Treat Every Customer Like Your Only One
When a customer leaves a long term business relationship or chooses to purchase from another company, the reason is often linked to how they are treated or specific areas of their experience with the company that are lacking. You have to show customers how important they are to your organization and constantly remind your team how important it is to go above and beyond during every customer interaction they have.
Develop Loyalty Programs
As consumers, we have all seen examples of customer loyalty programs that entice us to continue doing business with a certain company. Consider all of the hotels, rental car and credit card companies that have mastered this concept. A good customer loyalty program will drive repeat business, as customers have something in it for them to continue doing business with your organization.
Loosen Up Your Credit Terms
I know everyone in a finance role is cringing reading this, but trust me on this one. Try offering your best customers extended terms or other forms of creative financing that will positively impact their cash flow. When customers are recognized and rewarded for their good payment history and customer loyalty, that trend is likely to continue.