Convert Clients to Apostles for Sales Success

The Art of Selling to Grow Your Business – Part II:

Sales Best Practices to Convert Prospects to Clients and clients to Apostles

As you acquire clients it is critical to do everything you can to identify the most profitable ones, and achieve client conversion to your most rabid raving fans, also known as “Apostles” for your sales success.  Apostle (raving fan) clients make up 3% of your client roster. 73% of all clients are pure mercenaries. They have no allegiance to you, are not loyal and will leave you for a better price, special promotional offer or promise. 17% of your clients are called loyalists. They are generally happy with you, tend to want to keep purchasing from you, but can be convinced to leave you.

You need to create an Action Plan to cultivate and retain your apostles. Conduct a needs assessment to identify what your apostles require that you deliver. Then you need to develop a comprehensive set of CUSTOMIZED solutions to solve all the problems they face. Convince these clients to implement your recommendations and check on them constantly to see how they are doing. You review this approach annually and make any changes as need.

Three steps to gain these apostles for client conversion:
1.) Write down the names of all your existing apostles;
2.) Write down what it takes to keep them; and
3.) Keep developing an active list of your loyal clients that you plan on converting to apostles.
Your goal should be to find twice the number of your current apostles, since research shows most people convert loyalists into apostles at approximately a 50% conversion rate. Follow the three steps listed above.
Adhere to the Pareto Principle to guide you in gaining loyal customers.
Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who created a mathematical formula in 1906 to explain the significant uneven income distribution in Switzerland. In analyzing the distribution of wealth he found that nearly all the wealth in the population was contained in a relatively small percent of the populace (sound familiar?) After WWII an American named Dr. Joseph Juran took Pareto’s work further by proving that in nearly all cases, a few (20 percent) of any data set are vital and many (80 percent) are trivial.
The beauty of Juron’s work was he found universal applicability in Pareto’s principle when he studies many different industries, sizes of organization, and markets. Juron’s work has been found to be applied in ANY endeavor (business, academia, AND careers!)
So what does all this matter, you ask? As a business owner, start-up and entrepreneur it’s critical to understand that 20% of Your clients contribute 80% of your total business! 20% of your clients place 80% of your orders, 20% of your clients purchase 80% of your stuff. Today, Pareto and Juron’s work are defined collectively as “the 80/20 rule.”

The Pareto Principle as your sales strategy
Your focus in achieving true sales success must always be identifying, studying and placing the needs of your “Top 20” above other clients. Not all clients are the same. Create a profile of your Top 20% client type with as many details as you can. Do you have a method for ranking your clients using quantifiable metrics to find your Top 20% most profitable customers? If not…you better. A great tool/approach to quantify the value each of your clients contributes to your business performance is called the “RFVP Profile.” RFVP stands for:
* Recency: When was the last time that they did business with you?
* Frequency: How frequently do they purchase from you?
* Volume: What is the volume or amount / size of their average order with you.
* Profit: What profit do they contribute to your business?  Profit can be measured as the amount of revenue they generate minus all costs incurred to service their account.

Following are some time-tested actions your firm can pursue in order to generate new business, keep existing clients loyal, and convert repeat customers into apostles.
* Learn your prospect/client’s top pain points – when you know the business challenges your top 20% face you are positioned much more strategically to deliver solutions to the problems that keep your clients up at night.
* Deliver value at EVERY stage of the 4-Step Sales Process – most salespeople foolishly think that being valuable only counts when the prospect is getting ready to sign the contract. Being valuable at every stage of the client engagement process will quickly convert 1st time buyers to repeat customers then loyalists to apostles.
* Exceed their WILDEST expectations – your top clients will stay with you much longer if you keep delivering results above and beyond what they ever hoped for.
* Empower every employee to do the same – your entire culture vision, mission and values) should be predicated on enabling all your people to serve your clients well. Unfortunately most business owners hoard over direct control and authority in serving clients and limit employee autonomous decision-making as a control measure.
* Account Penetration Strategy – do you have a plan for engaging your larger clients across business units, at multiple locations by developing a formal approach to find, contact, serve all the influencers,decision-makers, end users for your products and servers. How much business are you leaving behind at each client?
* Create Policy of “Standards of Care” – do you have a written program with standards for how you serve clients?  Recall not all customers are the same and should be treated differently.  You treat mercenaries, loyalists and apostles differently, and need to have a written policy with standards for serving all three types of customer.
* Seven step process for creating standards for exceptional customer care:
1. Identify Best Practices
2. Codify Best Practices
3. Train the Process
4. Coach the Process
5. Measure the Process
6. Compensate the Process
7. Constantly Improve the Process
So, what are sales “best practices” anyway?
* Follow your customer conversations online to see how you convert prospects to qualified leads to first time customers.
* Align your sales, marketing, & product management so they work together.
* Touch clients several Ways by communicating with them over the phone, by email, in writing, through your advertising.
* Focus your sales presentations on their problems.
* Become more visible, by attending their industry events, annual trade shows and conferences, their alumni organization meetings, etc.
* Get published! Become a subject matter expert in the industries you serve to by getting published, be interviewed, serve on industry panel discussions, write case white papers.
Here’s to your continued success in 2012!