Think of a friend you’ve built a solid relationship with….
They most likely know the daily demands of your life, your plans for the future, and the hurdles you’re up against. Then recall a friend who you have kept in touch with over the years, but only hear from when they need a favor. When you need advice or support, which friend do you call?
The same question transfers into the business world, especially in the Material Handling Industry. When a customer finds themselves in the position to purchase equipment or resolve a service need, who do they call? The salesperson who has built a relationship with them, or the salesperson who shows up only when a deal is out for bid?
Chances are, if there is a defined deal on the table, the customer has already chosen who they want to work with. It is no secret that building relationships with customers and staying in front of their needs will help support your sales pipeline. So, in the months and years leading up to a deal, what practices can you execute to ensure being top of mind, while also remaining conscious of your time and sales goals?
Uncover All Possible Needs
Large purchases in the material handling industry such as equipment and racking projects arise much less frequently than the smaller needs, like service and rentals. Revealing these small to medium-sized opportunities will help you build a relationship with these companies, inherently allowing you to provide insight into larger needs as they develop. Understanding the full spectrum of opportunities with a client, not just the big-ticket purchases, is essential.
Identify Need Timeframes & Frequencies
Uncovering no-brainers like lease expiration dates or RFPs will most definitely contribute to your direct pipeline, but getting in the habit of asking ‘how often’ will bring awareness to the customer’s needs, not the deals that have already been established. For instance, if you learn a customer requires rental equipment every quarter, you can stay on top of their needs better than the person who’s learning they need equipment within the next week.
Manage Next Purchase Timeframes
Finding the customer’s needs and timelines is the real key to success, not following up whenever you think their needs will arise. Using a CRM to help you log this information is extremely helpful for these efforts. It is also crucial to have a plan to follow-up at an appropriate frequency. Without a plan, the information can bog you down, so come up with a few simple rules or metrics such as fleet size or equipment type to help establish how often you will be reaching out.
Provide Quality Customer Service Before They are a Customer
Many struggle with the concept of follow through. Once you have uncovered the customer’s potential needs, their timeframes and frequencies, and logged the information into a CRM solution, you need to reach back out. Communicating to the customer that you will follow up and not doing so will hurt your reputation. Be sure to follow through on the expectations that are set to gain trust and build rapport.
At the End of The Day...
Building and maintaining relationships both in the personal and professional sense requires constant attention. Relying on the practices described above will alleviate the guesswork and improve your ability to stay in front of needs that will turn into sales. When the term ‘business development’ comes to mind, it is natural to think only of prospecting, but prospecting for new business without actually nurturing customers is like planting a seed and not watering it.