How ‘bout them Giants? This is the most exciting week all year for baseball. For those of you less familiar with baseball, we’re talking about the riveting end to the months-long baseball season: the World Series. As many of us know, baseball is a game of numbers more so than any other sport—batting averages, on-base percentages, error rates, etc. In addition, managers’ decision-making is driven by statistics and probabilities.
As you look at closing out your season, where will you finish? Right now, most of us have a laser focus on year-end numbers and are pushing for a strong finish. Typically our focus is on chasing new customers and bringing new business in the door. And while you absolutely need to keep your foot on the gas, it is most critical to know your numbers and follow the money. Where’s your revenue coming from and who’s buying your products and services? Being in tune with these questions and following the money can be an incredibly effective approach in order to ensure a strong close to your year and to build momentum going into the next. Here are three strategies to help you.
Lock in Loyalty
Customers want to feel valued and one of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to visit or call your top clients and find out how you’re doing. Get straight to the point and ask, “How are we doing?” There can be no other motives or agendas when you have this conversation, and it only works if you’re genuinely focused on how you are meeting the customer’s needs. When you make time to really listen and learn from customers, you’ll reap the benefits in more ways than one: you’ll gain valuable insight and it will allow you to evaluate what’s working and how what you sell translates into real value for your customers. More importantly, if your customer is less than satisfied, you’ll have the information and can resolve the issue. Sometimes what matters most is how you handle problems. The most important thing is to preserve the customer relationship—after all, it’s more expensive to lose a customer than to gain one.
Uncover Hidden Gems
During Q4, clients often have unused funds available, and sometimes these unexpected opportunities can make or break your year. Conversations with your clients may uncover hidden gems—new business ideas or leads that you were unaware of—or even plant seeds for solutions for the coming year. The key is to have the right intent and to truly play the role of advisor. Be prepared with new information—conversations that spark new thinking with customers require you to bring something to the table. Share stories about how you’ve helped customers, and keep it focused on benefits and value. Or be ready to discuss new data or research that you’ve found.
Get Strong Referrals
A customer referral is like gold. It carries heavy weight when your customers are making introductions for you. If your goal is a strong end-of-year finish, focus on finding these to move the needle on sales. If you’ve taken good care of your customers, they will be happy to refer you, but you have to ask them: “Do you know anyone who can benefit from our products and services?” In general, people want to help others, so don’t be afraid to ask. Also, be sure to make it as effortless as possible for your customers to give you referrals! Offer to write a sample email that they can tweak and easily send out.
How often should you ask for referrals? Once per quarter is the rule of thumb. In the meantime, stay top-of-mind with your customers by sharing blogs, status updates in LinkedIn, or email newsletters. These may prompt the customer to think of you and proactively share referrals. And one of the best ways to get a steady stream of referrals is to incent them. Consider sending personalized thank you notes or gifts or even providing a referral fee which can be a set dollar amount or a percentage of your deal.
While these practices should actually be implemented throughout the year, most of us analyze our numbers at the end of the year or at times that we have set aside for planning. There’s no better time than now, in the homestretch, to look at your numbers and know where your business is coming from. This is the time to play smart.