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When customers quit buying during a Recession
 
The economy has forced a number of companies to make some really tough decisions and sometimes our products and services are part of the cost savings decision. Two traps lay hidden in the weeds, ready to snare the unprepared: 
  1. Dropping all contact with the customer
  2. Continuing to provide your valuable services for free – with the hopes of somehow luring them back
Quite honestly, I am more concerned about the latter of these errors. If you are a distributor, number two translates into service calls, technical support, free training and a myriad of other “services”.
 
I suggest a more active approach. When a client leaves “due to the economy”, hard decisions are in order. Is this customer worth saving? Let’s face it a recession will flush out some poorly run organizations (acquisition, bankruptcy, downsizing a department). If they are going to die anyway, why invest energy servicing them as you would a customer?     Worse yet, why allow them to go “belly-up” owing your company Thousands of dollars.
 
If they are going to survive and later thrive, you need to understand (in as precise terms as possible), their perception of your value. Ask for a dollarized version of your value. And, if they can’t come up with one, it indicates you have an issue. Actually, you have a sales process problem that needs to be addressed quickly. 
 
Determining your value – in dollars and cents – is critical for long term success. Use what you learn with these exiting organizations to fix the problem for current and future business. Don’t assume those many “above and beyond” actions are somehow noticed – most of the time they aren’t. 
 
You need to ask yourself, what is the value of the service I provide? Answering these questions will get you started:
  • Do I save my customer downtime? What is downtime worth?
  • Do I recommend longer lasting products? What is that extra life worth?
  • Do I stock special inventory “just in case”? What costs would your client experience if you did not?
  • Do I provide training, troubleshooting, advice to my customers? What is this worth to the customer?
For the past ten years, experts have urged distributors to record this value. If you have done this, you are positioned to tell a compelling story to this potentially parting customer. If not, you need to scramble. 
 
Let’s assume you can go back and re-create (with dates, times and specifics) your value to the customer. Now you have something to talk about; something meaningful and something that doesn’t smack of whining. If not, you had better start putting together value based stories for the customers who haven’t left. 
 
And remember, the value of your service is measured in that 5,000 year old standard of measure – MONEY.  
 
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RHC 2009
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