Countless surveys suggest that front-line sales professionals are constantly citing the fact that their biggest challenge by far right now is generating high quality leads. I accept this: The market place is becoming far more competitive, and we should anticipate that it will get even tougher, for a host of reasons.
But you know, in our haste to continually find "green field" opportunities, we often overlook - neglect even - the accounts that we already have because a vitally important sales activity is that of managing existing customer accounts to consolidate and grow the relationship. Yet unfortunately, when compared over time, the customers' interest levels increase while salespeople's interest levels tend to decrease - This creates a "relationship gap" and is due entirely to complacency.
Another major issue is that, too often, the salesperson fails to expand his/her "contact base" - as this next survey proves - which results in vulnerability and exposure to competitive activity.
Periodically, the Financial Times conducts a survey of British industry (and I have no reason to conclude that it is any different anywhere else) to establish how companies go about their purchasing. The survey is very comprehensive, broken down into many kinds of products and services.
From a Sales Director's perspective, these are very worrying statistics...
Customer size (Number of employees): Less than 200
Average number of buying influencers: 3.43
Number of influencers visited by salespeople: 1.72
Customer size (Number of employees): 200 - 400
Average number of buying influencers: 4.85
Number of influencers visited by salespeople: 1.75
Customer size (Number of employees): 401 - 1000
Average number of buying influencers: 5.81
Number of influencers visited by salespeople: 1.90
Customer size (Number of employees): 1001 +
Average number of buying influencers: 6.50
Number of influencers visited by salespeople: 1.65
In essence, without a sustained approach to ongoing servicing and support activities, customers that took months to win are ultimately lost because there was a lack of interest from their supplier.
Today's clients/customers are looking for vendors who can be business partners, who are willing and able to share risks and who are able to properly manage the entire sales process.
Fact: It now costs fifteen times as much to locate and sell to a new customer as it does to an existing one.
Is that compelling? If you do not love your existing customers, eventually they will fall out of love with you too!