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Tele-Selling – Reactivating Inactive Accounts
If cold calling isn’t one of your favorite pastimes, try another way. Try making “warmer” calls and watch your sales results improve.
You can do this by ‘searching’ for inactive accounts. An inactive account is a customer who has purchased from you in the past, but has not made a purchase in the past year or so. Here are three practical reasons why you should reactivate an inactive account:
First, you have a target list. The list is at home, you have ready access to it, and it’s on target. This saves you money and time to buy a list. You can start calling right away.
Second, you know them. Since you have a record of past purchases, you have an idea of where to start when you make the call. You can see the size, quantity and frequency of past sales. This makes your pre-call planning much easier.
And third, they know you. Of course, the account knows you. They have some sort of history with your company even if it was a one-time purchase. But what this really means is that it takes less time and effort to help educate the customer. It can help shorten the sales cycle.
When you put all these points together, you have a phone call that is much easier to make compared to calling a complete stranger from a purchased list.
Why we resist inactive accounts
Despite the benefits, many sales reps avoid calling inactive accounts. Most people think that the customer left for one of two reasons:
– the price was too high or,
– there was a problem with customer service.
Either way, the general sentiment is: “better to let a sleeping dog lie.”
While price and customer service may be legitimate reasons for customers to take their business elsewhere, the number ONE reason customers leave is simply due to neglect. A variety of studies show that up to 68% of those customers who leave do so simply because they had no reason to stay.
Think about it! They have left because no one has cultivated the relationship. The order was received and that’s it. Account ignored. No one paid attention. The more positive implication is this: spend a little more time and pay a little more attention and maybe you can reactivate some of these accounts.
How to reactivate an inactive account
Before you pick up the phone, take a moment or two to review the client’s file. Take a look at the sales record and see what potential opportunities there may be. The file may be thin and poor, but it’s a start.
When making your call, there are three simple rules:
Rule #1: Refer to the past relationship.
While not all of your accounts will remember the relationship, it’s important that you use it. This is what helps make the call warmer. The customer tends to be somewhat more receptive.
Rule #2: Don’t ask why they stopped buying.
This is a common mistake. When asking why a customer has stopped buying one of two things can happen. First, you may needlessly open a can of worms. If the account has problems, they will tell you. (More on that in a moment). Second, asking the question will often put your customer on the spot. Many will feel defensive; some feel vaguely guilty and even embarrassed. Avoid this.
Rule #3: Do a thorough needs analysis; ask questions
Treat the account as if it were brand new. A lot can change in a year or so. Ask the customer questions to discover needs and opportunities. This also prevents you from engaging. Create a fresh start with this client using a consultative sales approach.
Mr./Ms._________ This is ___________ calling from ____________.
Mr./Ms.___________ We have worked with you in the past providing _____. (list the product). Of course, at this point in time I’m not exactly sure of your needs, but if I caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you a few questions to determine if we can help you (insert your benefit such as ‘reduce delivery cost’, ‘lower your prices’, ‘source hard to find items’).
What types of _______ are you using now?”
But what if the customer has a problem or a problem from the past?
If the account refers to a problem, ask what happened. Get the details. Many times the client just feels the need to vent. That doesn’t mean they won’t buy more. Listen to them. Acknowledge their concern; express regret. Fix the problem if you can. But keep saying you’d like to start the relationship over. What’s the worst they can say?
What if the customer refers to pricing issues?
Treat the price objection as you would any other customer. You need to ask to determine if the issue is pure price or value. You should investigate to determine if there is an opportunity to reduce the quantity. You need to use negotiation skills.
What if they have an actual supplier?
Big deal! Everyone has a supplier. You have to win the business. This means nurturing the relationship.
Inactive accounts are easier to sell than cold prospects. That doesn’t mean selling is a piece of cake. You still have work to do. But that means you have a bit of an advantage. Be sure to reactivate your inactive accounts!
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