Why an “Inactive Customer” Sales Strategy Makes Sense

Feb 7, 2018, Written by Sue Miley

Sales Strategy

Why and How to Make Inactive Customers a Part of Your Sales Strategy

I was looking over a sales report for a client that was comparing 2016 sales by customer to 2015 sales by customer. I noticed that there were several customers that he did not do business with in 2016 that he did have sales for in 2015. Basically, he had lost customers. We looked at the list together and he realized that he didn’t check in with or call on most of them in 2016.

He was so focused on getting new customers that he let go of customers he had already won and worked with.

When we were putting together sales strategies for 2017, this one seemed obvious.

5 Reasons To Focus on Inactive Clients to Grow Sales This Year

He needed to call on inactive customers he hadn’t worked with in the past year. There are many benefits, even if they haven’t heard from you in awhile.

  1. They know who you are. It is really difficult to go and knock on doors to people who have never even heard of you. Past customers have heard of you and know what you do.
  2. These customers will usually respond when you try to contact them. Whether you get an appointment or not, you usually can get through to them on the phone or by email. It is almost a habit to look at an email from someone that you know.
  3. They have a positive experience in their memory. If you did a good job for them, or they bought a product from you, they usually will have a positive feeling about you and/or your products and services.
  4. You know they have had a need that you can fill. If you didn’t do a good job, they had a need once, you still have a chance to get in touch with them to tell them how you have improved and ask for another opportunity. If they had a need before, it is likely they still have the need.
  5. It reminds them that you are still available and in business. Many times we just forget about vendors or service providers we used once or twice a long time ago. Getting your name or business back in front of past customers is all that may be required to get them back on your active customer list.

If you use quickbooks for your accounting they have a great report that is called Sales Summary by Customer. You run it for last year and then click on “prior year” as the comparison. This will show you side by side who you sold to two years ago that you didn’t sell anything to last year.

Make a List of Top Inactive Customers that You Want To Re-Engage With

Review the list and jot down notes that will help you prioritize. Then pick the top 10 that you feel like rank the highest for a.) a favorable impression of you or your company b.) opportunity, how likely are they to need your product or services.

Create a Strategy to Contact Each

Quality is likely to be more effective here than quantity. I wouldn’t just send out a form letter to the whole list saying you wanted to check in on them and see if they need anything. I would look at each of your top 10 and consider a unique strategy for each.

One may be a buyer who you really did hit it off with. Call this one for lunch to catch up on things.

Another may have been a really busy guy who never has much time. For him it may be better to send an email and request a 15 minute phone meeting.

A third may be a client your company really dropped the ball with. If the situation has truly been corrected, be forthcoming, call them and explain how you have changed things in your organization and this is why you can be more effective today.

Having a specific strategy will show the inactive client that you do remember them specifically, that you want to do business with them, and that you understand their needs.

Follow-up, Follow-up and Follow-up

Just like other relationships, our business relationships have many of the same characteristics. If we all of the sudden drop back in on a client, what makes them think you are going to keep them top of mind after you hang-up the phone? Or maybe they are just really busy and they won’t remember you the minute you hang up?

The key to any effective sales process is to continue to stay in touch with and get in front of the customer. Follow-up with information you promise to send, touch base in a month or so to see if anything has changed, send them a marketing piece here and there to keep your brand in front of them.

Nothing comes easy. And although it may be easier than cold-calling to make an inactive customer active again, it still takes hard work, consistency, and follow-up.

We are at the beginning of a new year again. The same client and I looked at the same list we looked at in January of 2017. It was exciting to see that he had added back six clients in 2017 that had been completely inactive in 2016. This resulted in several hundred thousand dollars in sales.

But even better than that, when we looked at the new report comparing 2017 customer sales to 2016 customer sales, there were only a couple of active 2016 customers that he didn’t do business with in 2017.  And there were logical reasons and he knew the reason.  It wasn’t that he just hadn’t called on them.

All small business owners have to sell in some form or the other.  There are many sales strategies, but I would start with the one that is leaping out of your sales reports. I would see which past clients you can start doing business with again.

By the way, 2017 was the client’s highest year of sales ever!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.