RELATIONSHIP SELLING

“You never close a sale, you open up a long- term relationship.”
—Denis Waitley, Ph.D.

In his book, “The Psychology of Winning”, and “The Winner’s Edge,” an audio/video program which I own and produced with Dr. Denis Waitley, there is an examination of the importance of developing and maintaining the right relationship with your customer—a long term, mutually rewarding relationship.

The relationship between you and your customer begins like the planting of a seed.  It has to be nurtured every day until it has become strong enough and self-sufficient enough so that you trust and respect one another.  Once you have a customer, it’s vital that what you do more than anything else is to keep that customer satisfied.  If you serve their needs, nurture that relationship, keep the customers you get—remember, the cost of selling a new customer is up to 600% more than that of selling an existing one--by providing them with superior service, then, and only then, will they become your customers for life.

Customer relationship selling is key to your marketing strategy for aftermarket sales.  According to Dan Kennedy, when it comes to marketing products or services, one of the most misunderstood and poorly managed assets is Total Custom, or TCV..  Far too much emphasis is placed on making that first sale to the new buyer, Kennedy asserts, and far too little is given to the strategies and processes for subsequent sales to that same purchaser.  Even given the fact that those subsequent sales to your existing customer are increasingly profitable and easier to make!      

Unfortunately, many companies still view the customer as only a “buyer.”  But a customer is someone who has not only made a purchase from you, but given the choice, will undoubtedly and happily do so again.   They feel a sense of relationship with you, and usually will say positive things about you to others. But again, there are numerous companies who even view “customer service” as a whole, as just another operating expense, (like keeping employee bathrooms clean or the office supply room stocked), rather than what it should be: A marketing function, and an opportunity.     

Back in the bad old days of Infomercials, all this was often ignored and the product manufacturer and Infomercial producer were still able to reap a financial bonanza. Fifteen years ago the cost of production and media buying were so low that you could put a pitchman in front of a small, live audience, point a camera at him as he talked about “getting rich in real estate,” put the video on the air, and sell $200 and $300 “seminars” or “courses” as fast as you could create and ship them.  This cheap, by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach led to a whole group of Infomercial entrepreneurs who were totally ignorant of and couldn’t care less about total custom.  Equally lamentable, it also created a small core (within that group) of outright pirates, i.e. people who knowingly sold inferior products and abused the buyers.           

Fortunately, today, with the various regulations in place and industry organizations which monitor the ethical conduct and claims being made in Infomercials, the snake oil salesmen are all but gone.  But, also today, the cost of acquiring customers (via any form of media) has risen and continues to climb.  Thus, it is harder and harder to make money on the first sale.  In fact, what is most common is the practice of “buying the customer” at break-even or loss on the first sale.  So much so, that the aftermarket or back-end sales are no longer merely additional profit, but often, the profit.  This, of course, is a mandate for the creation and implementation of total custom, and the long-term customer relationship.

TOTAL CUSTOM

You would be quite surprised, even shocked, to learn that many Infomercials which air frequently, are barely breaking even on the front end sale and, therefore, the profit factor is contingent on TCV.  This has prevented the Infomercial from being a “business” and made it into a “media” for customer acquisition and selling—it is one part of a larger, complex, multi-media marketing system, with the meaningful goal of obtaining maximum total custom.   

If you seriously plan to create that long-term relationship and Total Custom (TVC), and I seriously advise you to do so, here are some quick tips for how to do it:          

1.  Start by selling a superior product.  Both in terms of real and perceived value, your buyer should be happy with what he or she receives—it should be everything they expected, and more.  You want them to open the box you sent, be delighted with what’s in it and call a friend to brag about what a good deal they just got.     

2.  Start building your customer relationship immediately.  This could be in the form of a letter from the person they most identify with, perhaps the inventor of the product or the celebrity spokesperson for it, congratulating, welcoming and bonusing them.  This should be followed by continuous contact with the customer, sometimes with new offers and sometimes with “no sale intended” information.

3.  Offer service and support. If your customers are going to require assistance, it should be readily and reasonably available to them. 

4.  Have a line of product extensions, continuity programs and additional offers.  Most marketers underestimate the consumption capacity of their customers.

5.  Never ignore your customer for an extended period of time.  Three months may be nothing to you, but it’s a lifetime to your customer.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Generally speaking, and assuming you’ve followed the above five important rules, you should average no less than one times to as much as five times the initial purchase in subsequent sales per customer, over the following 12-to-18-month period.

Although Dan Kennedy sees the so-called “impending stampede” of Fortune 500 companies entering the Infomercial industry— driving media costs sky-high, and dramatically changing the rules of the game—to be more of a crawl than a stampede, he maintains that with the proper TCV strategy in place, even the solo entrepreneur producing Infomercials will easily withstand these changes and time-cost increases.  I agree completely with his assessment because I know from experience, that the customer relationship you build and maintain over a long period of time is the only one worth having, and surely the best example of “serving others.”

Remember, when a customer buys a product or service from you, it’s just the beginning of what should be a long-term, mutually rewarding relationship.  One in which you maintain their trust and allegiance because you followed through with the product or service as advertised, and didn’t stop there – but provided outstanding customer service and stayed in touch with them.  In doing so, you have truly earned their business and their loyalty for the future.

“Call Now 1-800 -  How to Profit from Direct Response Television Advertising”  Copyright 2006  Rodney H. Buchser

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