I’ve been talking about the sales intelligence practice of win loss analysis a lot lately. It’s the process of interviewing your customers to find out why you REALLY win or lose business, and is one of the best values for collecting market intelligence from your customers. You can get ideas for product development, competitive intelligence, changing account reps, realizing that customers don’t value what you thought they did…the list is as endless as your imagination if you stretch it.
However, many people just interview customers when they have lost business. Be practical: How long will it be before you can do business with them again, unless this loss just represents a portion of the business you do together?
Interview wins since they will give you ideas for product development, and they are interested in maintaining a relationship with you, especially if you can offer products that better meet their needs over time.
Especially in these tough economic times, take the time to develop even deeper relationships with your customers to boost retention rates. This is a key cooperative intelligence practice since your account reps or inside sales will be seen as leaders, connectors and communicators, while the competition won’t since they may be operating with a reduced sales headcount.
If you have the cashflow, don’t lay off your sales force or inside sales: keep them busy connecting with your customers. Here are some processes that you might include in their hardship job description in addition to their periodic account visits:
1. Interview customers one month or a reasonable interval after implementation of the product or service. Keep them happy and engaged, right from the beginning. Work with your marketing and product development people to include some open ended questions so they can vent and you learn what’s on their minds without the bias of closed ended questions.
2. A year after implementation, interview your customers again. They will have had a chance to use the product or service enough to have formed some strong opinions. Listen to their ideas, and let them know that you are considering or have made changes to your product or service based on their feedback. Include open ended questions about market trends, new technology and the competition so you don’t get blind sided.
3. Six months to a year before the contract expires, come back to the customer with another set of questions concerning the product/service, your customer service, you know the drill. Your goal is to influence them to stay with you, and they will be more tempted since you’ve been staying in touch with them…and this is not a last ditch effort just before the sale.
The point it: don’t wait for the sales event and then conduct win loss analysis interviews afterwards to find out what you’re doing right and wrong. Include this as part of the account planning and sales follow-up processes and watch your customer retention soar!
What have you included in your sales intelligence process to increase customer retention in these tough economic times?
Be notified when our book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Clinch and Keep the Business You Want is published.