Programming brings many happy returns

Dec 01, 2006

However, in most cases when someone carries out a business transaction for the first time, the business concerned merely waits passively for the next client to call or turn up instead of actively trying to set up an on-going relationship todevelop that untapped repeat business potential.

One of the best ways to increase your transaction frequency is to programme your clients to return again and again (that doesn’t mean using hypnotism, manipulation or underhand practices). It’s a powerful strategy that can be used in any business where clients obtain a significant benefit each time they do business with you on an on-going basis.

It’s the process of managing people’s expectations, anticipating and meeting their needs in a systematic manner and giving them the leadership, education or guidance to achieve the best possible outcome or result from your product or service. It’s also about providing a level of service that enhances their lives or well-being to a greater extent than that offered by your competitors and educating them to that fact.

Don’t assume that your clients will automatically know, appreciate and understand the finer points of what you do if you don’t explicitly tell them. If you educate them from their first transaction to fully understand what you do, how you do it and why it’s more desirable for them to deal with you on a continual basis, you’ll have made a good start.

That means that you must be able to quickly and lucidly present the best, the easiest, the most compelling and simplest-to-understand case at the moment of the initial sale, explaining why it’s in your client’s best long-term interest to continually seek out your products and services.

When you do that, your clients are much more likely to understand and appreciate the benefits you offer at a higher level than they do your competitors and this makes it many times more likely that they’ll repurchase from you more often and be much more receptive when you or your salespeople write, email, call or visit them.

Start by developing and testing different ways of articulating and demonstrating how and why your clients will benefit from your product or service on an on-going basis and why it’s in their best interest to deal with you continually.

Once you’ve created a formula that works, develop the process to the point where it becomes a natural, automatic part of what you and your staff say and do whenever a new client transacts business with you. Then reinforce that message at every point of contact with the client.

Your aim should be to help your clients, in a consultative manner, to develop a buying or usage strategy that both makes sense to them and helps them achieve the outcome they’re seeking.

If you know your clients and their consumption or usage patterns, you can paint a picture not only of the outcome they can expect from their next transaction but also what the ultimate outcome will be and why committing to an on-going purchase strategy will be much more beneficial for them than a one-off, intermittent or ad-hoc deal.

If you don’t programme them at the outset of the relationship, while they’re at the height of their enthusiasm curve, you’ll have to work much harder to achieve the same result later.

Getting your clients to acknowledge the outcome they’re seeking and gaining their commitment to a series of actions that will give them the result they want should be an integral part of your selling process. If each client is inclined to use your services just once or twice more a year as a result, you’ve increased your frequency of purchase and grown your business by a substantial margin.

For example, let’s say you run a restaurant and a client comes in merely for a cup of coffee. If you take a genuine interest, strike up a meaningful conversation and the client enjoys the ambience and the personalities of your team, there’s a very good chance that they will come back for lunch or dinner.

If you then advise and guide them on the best menu choices and suggest things they might like to try, there’s a good chance they’ll make the transition from a one-time static revenue source to someone who comes in with friends at least once a month for dinner and who pushes the boat out when they do.

You’ll benefit from dramatically increased business and your clients and their friends will have a memorable, enjoyable experience.

Programming clients can be done in other ways. In industries like soft furnishings, where buyers have to touch and feel product samples before they will buy, sales representatives and agents normally visit retailers regularly to show off the latest products.

But when stock from a supplier runs out, the buyers generally don’t replace it until the next time the representative or agent visits. They often fill the hole in their shelves by ordering similar products from a competitor whose sales staff happen to call between the regular sales visits of the original company.

A soft furnishings importer and wholesaler overcame this problem by faxing a simple ‘Priority Reorder Sheet’ to the retailer at the start of each month. It listed the products they had specifically purchased the month before and had a column that allowed them to mark off how many of each item they wanted and gave a freefone number to which the order could be faxed back.

That simple example of programming made it easy for retailers to check their stock requirements and reorder. It worked really well. The soft furnishings company received masses of repeat orders – it was like having an extra salesperson that cost them nothing. It kept competitors products off the shelves and locked them out of the account. The retailers received a much better service and it reduced the company’s costs of servicing their clients.

Implementing such a simple strategy in your business means that instead of living from job to job and passively waiting for your client to call you, you have on-going business with zero additional sales and marketing costs.

It will give you guaranteed future cash flow… which will also add significantly to the capital value of your business.

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