I normally use the term “client” rather than customer to describe the people who pay me money. That’s because I’m a consultant and I believe I have a professional relationship with my clients. But sometimes I need to step back and look at that relationship.
Realistically, these people are both my clients and my customers. Clients pay for advice and build a professional, long-term relationship. Customers buy things. So the reality is, sometimes my clients just want to buy things. This might be because they have extra money at the end of the quarter, or because they’re interested in new technology, or just because they’re in the mood.
From time to time, it’s useful to think about the things you could be selling your clients. For most of us, our existing client base is the deepest source of potential revenue. Think of all the things you do sell and can sell to existing customers. Make a list. Really. Create a table that lists everything you sell and who you sell it to.
Here are some strategies for selling deeper into your existing customer base.
First, cover the basics. What are the basic things you sell within the general categories of hardware, software, labor services, and cloud services? This should be a list of things that you can sell to every one of your clients. In particular, pay attention to technology that just shows up.
For example, if you’ve got clients who buy computers from you but get their wireless keyboards from an office supply store, figure out how you can sell them keyboards. The same is true for cloud backups, anti-virus, and anything else they have gone out and bought for themselves.
Second, fill in the gaps with new technology. What new products and services could you be offering that you don’t? As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, it is becoming easier and easier for managed service providers to expand our offerings.
Do you offer a variety of cloud service offerings or just one? Do you sell hosted phone service? How about security cameras and systems? Time clocks? Internet connectivity? 3D printing? You can adopt these offerings one at a time and then sell them to all your clients.
Third, learn your clients’ spending schedule. I mentioned that some clients spend more at the end of a calendar quarter. That’s true for some, not for others. Others spend more at the end of the year – or the beginning of the year. Sometimes clients have a big “season” and have money to spend when it’s over. This is true for anyone who holds a major annual event. It’s also true for seasonal work like accounting.
If you’re not sure about spending patterns – ASK! We’re sometimes shy about this, but clients are very upfront about it. Ask them when the best times to approach them are. You’ll hear things like, “Definitely not during picking season [or tax season]. But right after that is good.” Sometimes budgets are quarterly; sometimes annual. Corporate clients might have a year-end that’s not based on a calendar year. Ask.
Fourth, sell companion products and services. Almost all of your clients sell something and take credit cards. Do you offer them merchant services? You should. Similarly, they all use the Internet. Do you sell them bandwidth? They all have telephones. You can sell all kinds of products and services related to telephones.
In many cases, we sell half of the solution and help the client buy the rest. Consider how you can expand into these markets. If you decide not to, that’s fine – but make sure it’s a choice and not just because that’s how your business evolved.
The most common reason your clients don’t buy everything from you is that you haven’t asked! Once you have a complete list of everything you sell and who you sell it to, take a look from a different angle. For each of your clients, what should they be buying from you that they don’t?
The second most common reason that clients don’t buy from you is that they don’t know what you have to offer. It helps a great deal to have a regular newsletter. That’s a natural place for you to say, “Did you know we sell secure cloud backups?” You can even put “ads” in your own newsletter announcing new products and services.
Obviously, if clients aren’t buying from you, they are buying from someone else, or not at all. (For example, if you know they’re using toner, but not buying from you, that’s an opportunity.) Larger companies have inside sales reps. Those are people who sell into the existing client base. You might not be in a position to have a dedicated inside sales rep. But someone in your company should play that role from time to time.
Perhaps the easiest way to figure out what you could be selling to your existing clients is to listen to complaints. Where is their pain? Where is there frustration? If you can figure out just the right combination of offerings, you can make the client happier and more productive. At the same time, you’ll be cementing your relationship by creating more points of contact.
Thankfully, the world of technology changes very quickly. When you live in a world of change, it makes change easier to manage. You can try new things as often as you wish. Some clients will buy and some won’t. But if you don’t make changes, and you don’t offer new products and services, then no one will buy them from you.
Lift your eyes and look to the horizon. What opportunities do you see?