How many of you remember the old wives tale “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? I’m sure that this is still passed on to generations and will be for a long-time to come. Why? Because it is a simple strategy that may work, easy to implement, and even if you’re wrong, it doesn’t hurt.
My first outside sales position was a rigorous one. I was given the keys’ to a Chevy Celebrity, a Roadmap, and an account list of 200+ customers spanning 22 States. Good luck, see you at the end of the year, was all my sales manager could muster out of his mouth at the time.
The territory had been underperforming. Management didn’t want to pour a lot of money into advertising, or other marketing at that time. The only thing I knew was, that these 200+ customers were not sticking around. The retention rate average was less than 50% per year! That means to stay at the same sales level year over year, I needed to double the amount of customers every year! Or, I needed to retain the ones that I was losing.
- 22 States
- 200+ customers
- Only 240 working days in a year …
Oh yeah, this was before Al Gore invented the Internet, cell phones were a luxury, and low-cost airlines had not quite surfaced. How was I going to maintain these customers? Most of these customers were all starving for attention!
Oh yeah, and what does this have to do with an apple a day?
My Aha Moment
While driving from Cincinnati to St Louis, I grabbed an apple and started eating away. Somewhere West of Louisville and East of Salem, IL I came up with a rhyme. If an apple a day could keep doctors away, what will keep my competitors at bay? In that moment of lucidness, I brainstormed that I needed to make contact with every one of these customers every 3-months. I did the quick math, and came up with a 5-a-day keeps the competitors away strategy and started the next day.
I made it a point to talk with at least 5 additional customers each day. When I got through the list, I would start all over again. My focus would be on the outer parts of my region. Face to face contacts daily with current, past, and prospective customers, were planned in a more local (6-state) area.
When I started talking with these customers, they did something startling! They started telling me what issues they were having, problems they had, and ideas for the future. At the end of my first year, my retention rate soared to 80%. By the end of the 2nd year, I had it a 93% and also added quite a few pieces of business. This helped me become Sales Person of the Year, that I would repeat 2-years later using the same formula.
These contacts were more than just a simple hello. They were connections. I focused on building a relationship with these people. They understood I couldn’t drive to Portland, Maine from Detroit, and were just happy that I was making the effort to continue these conversations.
How can you use this strategy?
If you are in sales, you use email & social media to make these contacts, but you are not truly connecting. As a leader you send out turkeys to your employees on Thanksgiving, or Hams at Christmas, but you are not connecting. Get to know your internal & external customers intimately. Focus on making a connection with them, learning something about them, and check back when you hear they are running into problems. Your 5-a-day might be 3 or 30, but the ability to connect is key.
In one of the programs I facilitate, “Many Communicate, Few Connect” by the John Maxwell Team, we help you learn how to apply these theories to improve your connection with your team. Contact Us to learn how, set up an internal mastermind and group coaching on the subject for your key management and leadership team.
Pinnacle Sales is an Executive Coaching and Consulting Organization focusing on low-cost, easy to implement solutions to improve our clients businesses, relationships, and employee engagement.