In developing business leads it’s good to start by looking at your ideal customer group because their characteristics are likely the characteristics of your best new prospects. Makes sense. Salespeople usually look at volume, financial, and performance metrics of their top customers. But since the majority of your company’s revenues come from existing accounts, you might also think of other traits that make great customers.
Years ago I was working with a group brainstorming initiatives to improve customer relations. Seeking a way to identify great customers, those who had the highest emotional attachment to their company, we wrote all of their noticeable “action” traits on a whiteboard. Then we reordered those actions into four groups. Here’s what we found.
- Great customers tell you first. You don’t find out through their lawyers or in a press announcement.
- They ask questions. They want to know as much as possible … from you.
- They drop hints. If you’re competing for their business and they like you, they encourage you.
- They know you. You’ve had professional, technical, and even personal discussions. They know which sports teams you favor and what you will be doing on the weekend.
- Great customers do as much as possible within the terms of your contract. And then some.
- They are open to new ideas on how to better apply your products and services.
- They champion your positions and approaches inside their organizations.
- They think long-term. If there’s a hiccup in your service they don’t panic because they know you’ll quickly make things right.
- Great customers return your calls. They like talking with you.
- They are confident and competent within their own organizations. They make decisions and influence others in making decisions.
- They adjust their schedules and make time to meet with you.
- They refer you to others and offer to be a demonstration partner.
- Great customers use “we” instead of “you” in conversations.
- They ask you for advice about problems and consider you a trusted advisor.
- They extend business with you even under pressure to re-compete vendors.
- They identify with your success. Your achievements validate their thinking of you and your colleagues as a company they don’t want to live without.
You may have noticed that the first letters of the four groups spell “care.” That’s what great customers do. They care about you. The question is, do you return that care? That’s the secret of keeping great customers and getting more of them.