Resurrect the Dead: Five Steps to Sales Recovery
By Linda Bishop
For many years, one
of Mike’s best customers was a large bank. He loved them and thought
they loved him, too. Then, sales began to slip. The bank didn’t
call quite as often as they once had. Mike still got orders, but
they weren’t as frequent or as large. He noticed, but didn’t react.
He didn’t ask what was going on, or why the situation had changed.
No one complained about quality or price, so Mike assumed the
situation would turn around.
One day he woke up
realizing it had been a very long time since he talked to anyone
at the bank. A queasy feeling gripped him as he counted backwards
and realized how many months had gone by without a single order. His
blinders fell away. For the first time, Mike recognized this
customer was dead. Worse yet, he had probably killed them with
neglect and indifference.
This story has a
happy ending. Mike worked hard and resurrected his dead client. He
continued to do business with them for the next decade. Everyone has dead
customers and resurrecting them can be the shortest route to new
sales. Dead customers represent qualified leads. You already know
they buy what you sell. Often enough, they will buy it from you a
second time if you go out and re-sell them. Learn from Mike’s
mistake. Follow this easy five- step plan and bring dead customers
back to life.
Step One: List Dead
Make a list of dead
accounts and jot down notes on what you know. Why did the account
die? Was there a problem with quality, pricing, or personnel? Was
neglect the cause?
For the moment,
don’t expend any energy worrying about the probability of a
successful resurrection. Just make the list, read it once, and then
put it aside for 24 hours. Let your brilliant subconscious mind take
over and work on the problem.
Step Two: Find Out
if the Contact Is Current:
A couple of days
later, get out the list, and make calls. Talk to receptionists. Tell
him/her you’re updating files—which is the truth—and you want to
make sure information is current. Get the name of the buyer and
their title. Confirm phone numbers and email addresses are correct.
Be friendly. Be upbeat. Be positive. Often enough, you
discover the old buyer is gone. The slate has been wiped clean and
you’re selling to someone new.
Step Three: Send
the Buyer a Letter:
Whether you know
the buyer or not, write a letter consisting of three paragraphs.
explains why you’re contacting the buyer.
explains how you can help.
thanks the reader for their consideration, and tells them when
to expect a follow-up call.
business card and mail the letter. Here’s why a letter is better
than email or a phone call for initial contact. Customers get lots
of phone calls and e-mails. They don’t get a lot of letters.
Everyone knows it takes effort to write and mail a letter—more
effort than it takes to dial the phone or send an e-mail. People
respect effort and they appreciate it when it’s directed at them.
For these reasons, letters stand out.
Figure out when the
letter will land on the ex-customer’s desk. Call within 48 hours of
the anticipated arrival time. If your target picks up the phone,
great! Talk to them. Treat them as you would any new prospect, and
try to get an appointment.
If you get
voicemail, leave a message. Briefly repeat what you said in the
letter. Keep calling. After you have called seven or eight times,
tell them if they would like you to stop calling all they have to do
is pick up the phone and let you know they’re not interested.
Step Five: Go on
If they agree to
see you, do what you normally do during a sales call with a new
prospect. Tell them about your company. Explain how you can help
them. At the end of the call, smile and say, “We have worked with
you in the past, and would love to work with you again. How can we
make that happen?” See what they say.
This plan gets
results. It’s worth the effort to resurrect dead customers because
plenty of them are perfectly willing to come back to life with a
little nudging from you. Often, reviving them is quicker and easier
An experienced sales rep named Chris followed the plan. He
put together a long list of dead customers and made calls to update
his contacts. At one old account, the busy receptionist mistakenly
connected him directly to the buyer. The buyer was happy to hear
from Chris and immediately agreed to see him.
Chris learned a lesson that day. Some dead customers aren’t even
dead. They’re just hibernating and one phone call is all it takes to
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