• Adam Wright

New Customers Versus Repeat Clients: Where Should Business Owners Focus Their Efforts?

This is a bit of a trick question.


As the new decade gets underway and future goals are identified, sales teams and account managers should put a strong focus on touching base with past clients. Continuing to nurture those relationships is important because when a new project comes up, you want that client to think of your company first.


At the same time, attracting new business is the lifeblood of any enterprise. If your company isn’t growing, then it is slowly dying.


I’ve spent the past 20+ years building a central Ohio startup into a nationwide business. As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that the amount of outreach can make the difference between failure and success.


For past clients, think of it like networking.


Every career coach advises professionals to maintain and grow their network, even if they’re already in their “dream job.” Those personal and professional relationships can make the difference in securing a new job after unexpected downsizing or give an employee a step up in landing a promotion.


The same principles apply to sales staff in relation to past clients. At Associated Graphics, we make it a priority to reach out to previous customers on a regular basis. The goal is to stay in touch without being a bother.


There are multiple benefits to this approach. First, regular communication guarantees that you stay top of mind for future projects.


Second, this approach ensures that your company is not thrown a project at the eleventh hour. For example, at AGI, let’s say that a past client is planning to buy 100 new vehicles for its fleet and needs graphics installed on all of them. If we’re in touch from the earliest stages of that project, we’ll be able to get started on it sooner and avoid a last-minute rush.


Third, regular contact implies sincerity and security. Think about it this way: How would you feel if a friend you haven’t heard from in six months called you out of the blue solely because they needed to ask for a favor? The majority of us likely wouldn’t feel very receptive. The same idea applies to businesses and past clients.


New customers are essential to counteract attrition.


To acquire new customers, my most important suggestion to entrepreneurs is to pick up the phone. Did your first five cold calls go unanswered? Don’t sweat it. Call 50 more places. It’s crucial to get your name out there to as many people as possible and understand that it’s all in the numbers. The more you call, the better the odds that you’ll get an answer and a potential lead.


I understand that reaching out via email or LinkedIn can feel less intrusive and has the benefit of leaving a written record. But I have found that nothing can replace the power of human interaction.


If you want to send an email, leave a voicemail first. Let the person know that you will be forwarding them specific information. This way, the email is not a surprise, and the potential customer will be more likely to read it.


No matter how exceptional your product, sales teams must assume that they will lose some of their customers. That’s simply the nature of doing business. Clients may run out of funding for your product or go out of business. A larger corporation may acquire the company. They may move projects in-house rather than rely on outsourcing.


Regardless of the reason, attrition happens, and your company needs to be continually working to replace lost business. Complacency is the ultimate disaster for any business, big or small. Make it your goal to avoid it.


This article originally published on Forbes.com on May 19, 2020.

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