Profitable Top Line Growth

Andy Birol, Birol Growth Consulting

10 Winning Ways To Win Back Wayward Customers

As George Costanza said in Seinfeld, “It’s not you it’s me!”

Well if it is your fault you lost a customer you really need back, what can you do?

Rather than simply grovel or cut your prices which will kill your margins, here are ten steps you can take.

10 Win Back Tactics by Andy Birol

10 Win Back Tactics by Andy Birol

  1. Provide a warranty if your product was faulty.
    If your product or service was deficient, offer some kind of insurance to assure your customer it won’t be their problem next time.
  2. Find another buyer within your customer if it’s bad blood.
    Often there is someone else in a bigger company who you can start over with, especially if what you offered had a good track record before your relationship turned sour. Go over the buyer’s head if you have nothing to lose.
  3. Sell to another department if they start buying for different reasons.
    Why customers buy your services or products can change over time. A purchasing department can make decisions until their company has legal or customer problems at which time their finance or marketing departments may now have the final say.
  4. For a while, give away your products or services for free if you broke your promise.
    Sometimes a customer just needs to see that you are punishing yourself for your own transgressions. Take one for your team if you screwed up in this way. They may regain their respect for you for doing so.
  5. Change your value into a service if they won’t buy your product (or vice versa.)
    Sometimes buyers are no longer allowed to outsource what they used to buy and must make it themselves. For example, if they cannot pay for your maintenance services, you could sell them the training or the components they need to do their own maintenance.
  6. If you have been serving this customer for a long time, reexamine what it really costs you to do so.
    You can cut your price if it’s become cheaper to serve them. Or you should do so if there are now better alternatives on the market. Yours may just not be worth what they once did.
  7. Change what you sell into an expense if your customer’s CFO won’t approve your product as a capital cost.
    Often, capital spending is prohibited but monthly expenses continue to be budgeted. If this is the case, change what you offer so it can be paid for by a different budget category. For example, if they cannot buy new vacuum cleaners, sell them cleaning contracts.
  8. Sell your wares through a distributor if customers start to need smaller quantities or more service.
    Perhaps your service has declined as you pursued larger customers. If so, get a third party to sell and service your customer properly. You sure don’t need to make as much if you are doing less.
  9. If they won’t buy it by the unit sell it by the hour or the result.
    So many times buyers are told to cut costs by cutting out inventory. So sell them all they need by the hour.  Make sure you can profit by providing them with coverage if they need the result of your product.
  10. If you didn’t ask for permission, you can legitimately beg for forgiveness.
    Sometime, you just have to fall on your sword and admit you should have been more deferent, collaborative or considerate. Unless you made a mistake that was evil and premeditative, humility is a winning virtue!

Having witnessed and made so many mistakes over the years, I have seen all of these ways work wonders to win back a client. And once repaired, a formerly damaged customer relationship is always better than it ever was before the problem occurred. Here’s to your winning ways!

Filed under: Business Growth, , ,

When Bad Customers Happen To Good Providers

In any economy we fight hard to find, land, and satisfy customers.

In this economy it’s twice as hard, but twice as satisfying to know you really helped your client move forward or save money.

But how does it feel when they tell you they aren’t paying you? Nowhere else in business are one’s feelings more confused! You care about your customer, but they have misled you and stolen your value. Once you have collected your emotions and your thoughts, what is one to do? A non-paying customer is the biggest liability your business can have as you must throw good time and effort after bad to be made whole.

When Bad Customers Happen To Good Providers - by Andy Birol, Profitable Top Line Growth

When Bad Customers Happen To Good Providers by Andy Birol, Profitable Top Line Growth

When what your customer says is no longer true, all you can do is watch what they do and remember what they did. Here are some ideas

Make concessions based on joint accountability.
If they are asking you to compromise, demand a similar giveback in return. For example if a business owner is asking for relief, have they first taken a pay cut before they are asking you to do the same?

Don’t change your terms because your client changes their mind.
If he or she suddenly makes the excuse your products or service no longer solve their pain or create new profits they are distancing themselves from keeping their promises. Stand your ground and take legal action.

Watch what your customers do and not what they say.
If they aren’t cutting back everywhere or still taking vacations, don’t subsidize their bad judgment or unwillingness to sacrifice.

Credit their Credible Behavior.
If they have kept previous promises you should trust the same individuals to do the same. Beware of the same bait you have taken in the past. Learn only to get screwed in new and different ways.

Don’t assume any accountability for their dysfunctional behavior.
Bad times expose impostors. Learn all the reasons why your customer is in hot water. The chances they will cut the same corners or shirk their responsibility again are much greater in bad times.

Prepare the “MIL’s” that you Must, Intend and Like to get through every negotiation and establish your BATNA (Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement) where it’s better to walk away than settle. 
The book Getting To Yes by Fischer and Ury is a must-read for preparing for any negotiation.

Stand firmer on receivables in a transactional business than you would a relationship business.
Lawyers and accountants usually let their receivables slide because they know they can bill their clients for years to come. If you have no chance to make it up in the future do not compromise in the short run.

Negotiate as a peer, never as a subordinate.
When a customer informs you they are breaking a promise, its no time for them to be heavy handed with you. They made an agreement and cannot live up to it. If they are telling you and not asking you for relief they think they can squeeze you; so squeeze back.

Keep reminding them of their commitment.
Most creditors are good people who want to pay up. Follow up persistently and incessantly. The squeaky wheel gets the attention and paid first.

Getting paid equals respect.
If you are known as a tough cookie, you are more likely to get paid. If you are known as a pushover, well…

Tough times will bring the best and the worst out of people. While past behavior is usually a good indicator of their next actions, desperate people in denial will do anything. Keeping close to your customers, doing reference checks on prospects (just as they do them on you) and providing high value based on your Best and Highest Use is the best defense. Always being this tough has a final benefit. It allows you to subsidize creditors you believe will survive and who will remember you for reaching out to them in their time of need!

Filed under: Profitable Top Line Growth,

Why Focus on Your Customers First?

In our post-crisis, unstable economy, we have learned first to survive.

We have cut expenses, chosen needs over wants and take few chances.

What is more important than focusing on your existing customers in a cash-and confidence-starved world? Nothing.

Nothing more important than focusing on your customer says Andy Birol.

Nothing more important than focusing on your customer says Andy Birol.

Your profitable, paying clients are your quickest path to achieving Profitable Top Line Growth. They are already paying you and trust you to deliver.

Would you rather keep your customers or invest risky money to poach prospects from your competitors? The answer is clear, especially if your customers are at-risk being poached in return. Your loyal buyers need your focus because they already respect your value and provide you with cash.But have they changed along with the world in general?

Unless your current customers are going bankrupt, focus on them by learning know if and how they are:

  • Staying profitable?
  • Behaving differently?
  • Pursuing new goals?

Chances are your customers have changed and will not buy just like they did. What new behaviors, needs and wants do they have? Now, who is your new real buyer? How has their approval process changed? What are their new expectations? Even before the economy improves and confidence grows, why would your customers keep buying as they did?

Instead, they are probably looking for new products, services, expertise, conditions and warranties when spending to meet their new goals. Knowing how they have changed is your first step to Profitable Top Line Growth, because if you do, you can change what you sell to profitably keep, grow or win-back your customers.

Refocusing on customers means changing your previous sales, relationships, margins and practices, often by reinvesting and retooling what you have been doing for years, just when cash is tight. Try to see your buyers’ changing behavior as an opportunity to meet their new needs and you will profit with them. But treat your historic relationship as a blueprint for a future you feel entitled to, and you will likely fail.

This blog will regularly bring you tools, techniques, resources and real-world examples on how you can leverage your customers first.

Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Top Line Growth, , ,

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