Customer Relationships

Get Your Share of ‘Old’ Business

By Stuart Ayling

Firms should use a sales development plan to increase their ‘share of customer’ i.e. share of ‘old’ business.

Lets face it…winning new business is fun. Particularly in service firms where there is substantial personal involvement required to gain clients. But the jubilation of landing new accounts often leads to problems.

While you’re focusing on gaining new clients, settling them in, and organising the recently won project, what about your other clients? Remember them…you know, the ones that still want you to do work for them. Their requirements may not seem as exciting as they once were, but you cannot afford to ignore them.

It is often the case that service firms do not have a formal sales development plan. There is little prospecting or account management done on a regular basis and this can mean from time to time the call goes up to Get out there and sell. This is usually triggered by an impending revenue slump — often brought about by either a major project that is nearing completion, a sizeable client that has cancelled work, or an industry wide (or seasonal) trend.

One of the major shortcomings with this reactive style of sales management is that relationships with clients go cold. And yes, this is sales we are talking about. Although in your firm you may call sales by another name such as revenue, billable hours or fees.

When you are busy on new ‘exciting’ projects, other customers may sense they are being neglected and start shopping around for other firms to deal with. Sometimes the first you know about this is when your client contact staff get back in touch with the customer in response to the “Get out there and sell” directive. Too late.

Whilst it is advisable to increase your ‘share of market’ by looking for new clients, it is wasteful to ignore the existing relationships and potential value of current clients. A better idea is to also consider maximising your ‘share of customer’.

How do you take a ‘share of customer’ approach?
Follow these steps:

1) Identify the sales potential of each client. The ‘potential’ is the total value of all services (of the type you offer) consumed by this client over the next 12 months, regardless of whom they currently source them from.

2) Subtract from this potential the value of any services that are not open for your firm to supply. Limiting factors may include the clients current contractual obligations, their sourcing from a related subsidiary or division, or relocation/rebuilding of facilities or plant etc.

3) Calculate the ‘share’ of this net potential you wish to achieve. This share will be based upon a combination of hard and soft data such as: developments within the client organisation, your historical earnings from the client, changes affecting the clients industry, your firms strategic direction, and your firms relationship with the client. This value is now your sales target for this client.

4) Develop a client-specific strategy for achieving the sales target. A good sales strategy will include:
A combination of personal actions designed to build interpersonal relationships with key client personnel. Such actions would likely be:
– Personal visits to client premises
– Using corporate hospitality to entertain clients
– Attending industry events
An educational component to advise your client of your firms capacity to assist them.
A critical review of current projects to ensure a better understanding of the clients needs and to maintain customer service standards. In particular a review should cover elements of interest to assist in achieving the sales target – client staff changes, client attitudes, competitive intelligence etc.

5) Incorporate the sales target and strategy in your firms regular review procedures. Staff will report not only on new and current projects, but also on the development of your sales ‘pipeline’. The review process should also check the status of any limiting factors, as at some point they will change.

By adopting a share of customer approach to managing your sales you will create a proactive structure in which sales opportunities can be monitored and fostered. In particular, you will be able to capture and document important information regarding client developments and potential sales that otherwise may leave the firm with changes in your personnel.

So you can still have fun winning new business…but remember to get your share of ‘old’ business as well.

Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart’s popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at

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