One sustainable approach that may sound a little abstract, is by improving your customer retention.
This approach is not only more cost-effective than new customer acquisition, but also a more profitable target for revenue growth. Research highlights that a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a profit increase from 25% to 95% (Bain & Co.).
Therefore, nurturing customer relationships is fundamental to becoming more sustainable, rather than spending more resources on attaining new customers, but even basic customer retention efforts are made more challenging by conditions in the industry today.
To retain customers, if you work to understand them, to learn what they need from you, and determine how to serve them better than a competitor can. Ideally, your team can catch shifts in customer buying behaviors sooner and act to retain them before they are too far gone.
However, many sales and customer service reps are already stretched thin, with many old and new market challenges, adding pressure to even cover the bare minimum for productivity. Implementing a customer retention strategy with the growing challenges will be challenging at best.
That is unless you’ve already invested in tools and technology that enable small teams to be really laser-focused with limited resources.
Buyers have more buying options than ever before. They’re conducting much of their research independently of a sales rep. They could even be researching alternatives to your services without your knowledge.
It’s not that unusual for business to slip away, product category by product category until it’s too late to realize that it’s happening. After all, with more channels to buy from, it’s become easier for your customers to switch.
The ability to identify trends, risks, and opportunities sooner can help sales reps be more proactive on the customer retention front with less work. Such technology can give you the insights you need to not only understand your buyers but also to show them you’re paying attention.
Technology is improving at speed and the right tech solution can accelerate your ability to drive customer retention, along with further business sustainability benefits from resource savings.
By reducing paper, print costs and improving your carbon footprint, by easily mapping your customer visits by grouping these geographically.
To improve retention and sustainability, your customers want you to…
… Know them
When you reach out to a customer or they to you, the expectation is that they won’t have to repeat themselves. They expect you’ll have a full understanding of their previous interactions, such as communications and purchase history, so they can pick up where they left off without having to backtrack.
If you have the technology to support this, your salespeople and customer service reps can more easily answer questions on the fly – and then go the extra mile.
For instance, they can see what was said in the previous sales call and what products have been purchased to make suggestions that build off of it.
You should also cast a deep and wide strategy regarding customer contacts and product mix. You are increasing the odds of customer churn if you only have one contact at a company that buys from one product category.
… Take notice
You may be surprised to learn how many customers drift away because they didn’t feel noticed by a distributor. If it seems you don’t care enough about their business to recognize a change, such as ordering less or skipping an order altogether, it will challenge any feelings of loyalty they have – especially when they can get similar services from another distributor for a comparable price.
It’s impossible to keep an eagle eye on hundreds of customers, even when you’re not dealing with a labor shortage.
However, your sales technology can carry the responsibility of “noticing” changes across hundreds of customers, and it can use historic data and trends to forecast a shift before it happens. With technology handling this responsibility, your team is better able to embrace the “caring” aspect of the equation.
Combine this with AI to extend the capabilities of your sales teams to a superhuman degree.
… Read their minds
Customers want you to anticipate their needs, not just for the sake of time and convenience, but also because they expect you have insights they might not have. You work with hundreds of similar customers. If you can leverage sales tech to see know what’s trending, what they’re finding success with, and how they’re gaining efficiencies with their orders over others, you have the potential to carry those lessons to other customers to greatly enhance each customer’s experience.
Certain sales enablement technology can even deliver talking points that make this process incredibly seamless and time-efficient for salespeople.
…Make things easy
Customers are coming to expect the types of conveniences they get in other industries. Research shows 72% of buyers want similar experiences to B2C on B2B websites, for instance.
This means providing the channels and communication options your customers prefer. Your sales enablement technology adds a level of convenience as it will help your salespeople better understand who might benefit from new products or services you launch, so they can proactively reach out.
What you need to deliver a great customer experience today
Yesterday’s customer retention strategy – and old-school software – won’t work as well with today’s savvy buyer. For example, an existing customer may purchase a high-capital item, but may have shifted their spend for complimentary items, which typically have a higher markup than the high-capital items, to a competitor.
Because of the high-capital purchase, your system may report that sales for that customer are trending up for that month, causing your sales team to be unaware that they are actually losing business from that customer.
You need modern sales tools that can leverage AI and machine learning, to help you more efficiently meet new expectations, identify opportunities and risks, and continually evolve to better serve the buyer amidst disruption and change. You need the big picture, easily accessible, for each customer in your database to better meet customers’ needs, which in turn prevents erosion and creates upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
Stay on their radar
There is still a huge psychological and relational benefit to seeing you regularly, which can be achieved when your sales teams’ time is freed up by using the right sales tech. Be sure to include outreach and communications in your strategy. For instance, reach out about new products and happenings at your company. Be strategic in your efforts and prioritize outreach methods that resonate with your customers.
And consider special circumstances where your service and values can truly stand out. If there was a bad storm in their area, reach out to ask if they encountered any damage and how your company can specifically help. There might be a particular part that they need that you don’t normally carry, but you can source it for them as a non-stock item to not only help them in the moment but strengthen the relationship overall.
Adapt in the right ways
Give customers more than one way to interact with you. Again, being strategic is key. Consider how your customers prefer to interact and meet them there.
Enable your teams to adapt to a digital way, helping to remove some of the time pressures to carry out activities that are not value-generating for the sales teams. The right sales technology that takes care of the data, and provides valuable insights about your customers, puts your business on the front foot to have more profitable and meaningful conversations.
Have candid conversations with your sales team and encourage them to speak up when they need support by using new ways of communication to ensure the technology you invest in truly helps you support your customer better. And ensure that the tech itself is backed by great customer support.
Keep your customers – Keep your Edge
Empower your salespeople to sell smarter so that they can retain existing customers with less effort. Serving your customer better because you know them better doesn’t only benefit them. It means a more secure customer base, profitable growth with existing customers, greater reach for word-of-mouth marketing, and more.
This means improved revenue, more brand champions, happier employees, and a leg up on your competition.