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How to Never Lose a Customer

It starts with knowing the quantity of leads aka potential business.

The first question I ask when talking to any small business owner is:

“How many leads did you get last month?” 

The answer has almost universally been “I don’t know” or they’ll respond with the number of sales they made. If they’re particularly on top of things, they’ll share the number of quotes they delivered, which they got by looking in QuickBooks (a specific quoting software) or, worst case scenario, searching their email.  

What is a Lead, and Why Knowing is Important 

You’ll find slightly different definitions depending on who you talk to or the software you’re using, but here is the simplest answer: 

  • Anyone who calls your business about buying. 
  • Anyone who emails you about hiring. 
  • Anyone you meet who could be a future customer.

A lead is potential business.  

Knowing the quantity of leads that come in is vital to measuring the future health of your business. It’s a measure of how well your marketing is doing or how effective that referral network is working for you. If you know how many leads are coming and compare that to how many quotes you’re doing – or conversations about price in general – you’ll discover even more.

When a high percentage of your leads get a quote, that’s a great indication that your marketing is reaching the right audience because they’re interested enough to get numbers to make a decision. 

You may also find that a very small percentage of the people that call never take the next step. That could indicate you’re either not reaching the right people with marketing OR your salespeople (maybe YOU) could do better selling what your company does.  

Can you see why that’s the first question I ask? Not knowing how many leads you get each month means you ARE losing business! You just don’t know you could be doing better because you don’t know what part of the pre-sale process you need to focus on. 

Start to never lose a customer by tracking every single lead. They’re all opportunities that MAY lead to deals. Missing them is money out of your pocket.

Using a Pipeline to Plug the Leaks 

Once you’re making sure every lead that comes in is recorded, the next step is to make sure you NEVER lose them throughout your sales process.  

Quick check: If you ask a salesperson, whatever their title may be, what happened to this or that deal, do they either start scrolling through email or flipping pages on a legal pad? 

If the answer is yes, then you’ve definitely lost business somewhere in what is currently passing for your “process.” 

You probably already use an order fulfillment pipeline; 

  • Create the sales order 
  • Order the blanks 
  • Print/Apply 
  • Ship 
  • Invoice

Applying that same idea to your incoming leads as a sales opportunity pipeline is JUST as useful. 

Using a Sales Pipeline 

What a sales pipeline does is give you a visual representation of where all of your deals are.  

In the example below you’ll see the following columns:

  • New Opportunity 
  • Create a Quote – a proposal is needed 
  • Pending – someone sent the quote and you’re waiting for an answer 
  • Closed Deal 
  • Lost Deal 

As a lead works though the sales process, you can just grab one of those deal-cards and drag it to the next stage. The important part is that you can SEE every deal. You can see the customer, dollars at stake, and if any deal is stuck at any stage. You can also see if there’s a task or appointment set to follow up. And, of course, clicking into any of the columns will give you notes, contact information, etc. 

Do this and you’ll never lose another customer through inaction or a missed follow up.   

Automatic Follow Up – The Best Tool to Avoid Lost Customers 

Business owners are BUSY. If you have even a modestly successful business, you likely spend all of your time on the phone, running the machines, packing orders, and cleaning up afterwards. If you’re a bigger shop, you’re making sure all of that happens on time, and profitably. 

So, following up with people who didn’t buy right away is just off the table because you have no time [and the payoff isn’t obvious]. The same thing goes for your actual customers. Once someone buys from you, they disappear from your world until they call again.  

Follow Up with Everyone

Automations are nothing new, of course. If you’ve ever used anything like MailChimp or even a form for your website, you know that it’s possible to have an email automatically sent based on an action. But did you know that you can schedule email months and years in advance?  

Customer Follow Up Sequence Example:
Let’s say you have a new client who bought 200 custom T-shirts for a charity run.  

Once you mark your deal as won,, a thank you email can automatically go out. 

Then, after the order is delivered you can automate a request for reviews. 

The  best part is you can automate an email to send NEXT year to remind them to order again!
Incidentally, you can set up a task to remind you or your salesperson to call after that email goes out. 

Have you ever wondered what happened to that customer from last year? Now you’ll KNOW. 

Automated Sales and Pipeline Example: 

The same principle goes for automating communications during your SALES process. Yet another way to never lose a potential customer.

Watch this video to better understand how the automated email workflow works.

Using the Follow Up Sequence 

We’ve been talking about you literally losing a customer. Losing them in an email chain. Losing them because you got busy or forgot. Losing them because you didn’t follow up before or after they became a client. All of these losses can be mitigated by using a CRM – which you’ve probably realized by now.

There’s one way implementing a pipeline and automated follow up can help that we haven’t touched on. Losing a deal because of PRICE.  

Price and the Final Strategy for Never Losing a Customer 

Obviously, you’re going to lose deals, and many times that’s going to be because of the price you’re quoting. Customers are cut throat shoppers when they view your products as a commodity they can buy anywhere. You can only fight against those losses if you KNOW that’s why you lost, so keep track of that over time. 

The pipeline you saw earlier coupled with another automation can give you the intelligence you need on why, where, and to whom you’re losing deals to. 

Once you or a salesperson drags a lead’s card into the lost column you can:

  1. Task a manager with a call to that lead to find out how you got beat and where they bought from  
  2. Set an automated email to thank them for the opportunity and let them know you’re here if that deal falls through 
  3. Send a short survey about where you could have done better 

Then add a tag with the price difference or reason they didn’t buy.  

As time goes by, you’ll be able to identify if you lost that customer actually because of price, (or something else), have an idea of what the difference was, and decide if it’s good business.

Collecting this data is a BIG step in never losing customers! Stay tuned for more on pricing strategies and learn how to market your business online for free here.

Bio: Mark Stephenson is a digital marketing strategist, partner, and educator. He is the driving force behind Clients First Marketing, a boutique marketing firm dedicated to empowering small business owners through comprehensive marketing solutions, educational resources, and tailored CRM systems. With decades of experience in digital marketing, sales, and management, in the customization space and beyond, Mark brings a unique, holistic perspective to the ever-evolving world of online marketing. Find him on LinkedIn.

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