If you’ve been in sales long enough, sooner or later you’ll be called on to breathe life back into cold clients. And yes, you can do this!

I’m talking about winning back those customers who used to buy from you or from your business, who have gone cold and are no longer your customers.

Many businesses have great sales, great clients, a great team. They can get so busy with ‘business as usual’ that it becomes hard to keep in touch with customers not in their top tier. It’s important to put energy and focus into understanding your top tier clients.

However, tiers two and three are also an important base for your business.

  • Right now – how is your business doing with these two lower tiers?
  • Have a look through your sales data, even a couple of years back.
  • Are all those clients still buying from you?
  • How long is it since you’ve spoken to them, chatted on Skype, taken them out for a coffee?
  • Do you know their current pain points?
  • How are things in their industry?
  • Have there been any staff changes? Your list of contacts may need updating.
  • Now add up how much revenue that these clients used to spend with you. Consider what the total customer lifetime value could be to your business.
  • These clients are worth a second look.

Wouldn’t it be great to see those numbers back on your company’s books? Perhaps they have all gone out of business – unlikely. What is more likely is that they are happily buying from your competitors.

So, how do you breathe life back into cold clients? How do you wake them up so that they become your customer again? Customers who used to buy from your business were once passionate about your company, your products and services, your salespeople. What happened?

Here are some reasons why customers might have stopped buying from you:

  1. The client did not like your people.
  2. The client did not like your new people.
  3. Your products or services have changed and don’t meet their client needs.
  4. Their business has changed, so your products or services don’t meet their client needs.
  5. The decision maker at your client’s company has changed and the new person does not know you or your business.
  6. The new person has a relationship with your competitor.
  7. They felt you pigeon-holed them as a ‘small’ customer – so when they grew, they looked elsewhere.

OR – something went wrong with your company’s products or services, and you:

  • Didn’t fix it
  • Disagreed there was a problem
  • Fixed it, but wanted to charge them for your company’s problem

The great news is: from the seven reasons listed, reasons three and four are the only ones that you can’t do anything about. In these situations, where a change has occurred, either in your products and services, or their client’s needs, clients may be forced to look elsewhere.

So if you can change five out of seven reasons – then yes salespeople, you can absolutely breathe life back into cold clients!

Even with the two reasons that you can’t change – you could still be communicating internally to see how your company could change a little, to continue to meet their client’s needs.

As change occurs, keep communication open with your client, giving your company an opportunity to become their chosen supplier again.

The common thread running through the seven reasons is bad communication. Perhaps even no communication.

Good salespeople can find something to help them connect with every client they deal with, not just clients who are exactly like them.

We need to keep talking with our clients, keeping them in the loop about product and service changes. We need to let them know that they matter to us, that we have their best interests at heart. When our clients have problems with our company, we need to advocate for them and get the problem solved, so that our clients win – not just our company.

Remember that if you’re not talking with your clients, then someone else will be. You might not know it, but your clients could be:

  • Looking at your competitor’s websites
  • Seeing your competitor’s content and advertising
  • Meeting your competitor’s at industry events
  • Having coffee with your competitors
  • Discussing their pain points about your company
  • Receiving proposals from your competitors
  • You can bet that someone else out there is talking to your clients.

The secret is: you need to keep close to your clients.

You need to be so close to them, that when the competition approaches them to try to win them over, the client comes to you, giving you an opportunity to demonstrate how your company can meet their client needs.

Happy clients don’t want to change providers. Even if they become unhappy with your company, if they trust and like you as a salesperson, they will want to stay with your company.

So to win them back, a key factor is good communication, probably over a sustained period, to regain their trust in you and your company.

Try doing some of the things your competition did that got them away from your company in the first place:

  • Improve the content on your website, keeping it topical and up to date
  • Ensure your social media and any advertising is working for you, helping to expand your client reach
  • Attend industry events, actually listening to each person you speak with

Set yourself a goal: have a coffee with at least one cold client each week. Enjoy the person you’re meeting, ask them how it’s going. All they are committing to is a cup of coffee. They might just relax and open up. They may not be as happy as they initially appeared.

Listen when they discuss their pain points about their current supplier. Now is not the time to trash the competition. You need to show them how professional you can be and you also need to relax. If you’re going to win this client back, they don’t want to feel embarrassed that they left. Show them you’re interested in them, and in their needs. Show them you’ve understood their needs.

Submit a proposal so they can evaluate the other options out there. No one wants to remain ignorant, especially if it makes good business sense to consider other options.

Stay calm and be prepared for some hard truths. There could be a very good reason why some of these clients went cold. If there’s anything that you, or your company did that lost their business, apologise, then do your best to create a winning solution for them.

When relating to cold clients, your job is to position yourself and your company as their Plan B. So even if they truly are happy right now, your company comes back on their radar.

Right now is a great time to start breathing life back into cold clients. It’s winter, so you are:

  • Still four months out from the Christmas season
  • Contacting them seven months before a 31 March year-end
  • Contacting them ten months before a 30 June year-end

Make a goal to go through your client database:

  • Sort your data, so that you isolate clients whose last purchase was 12–24 months ago.
  • Next, sort your data in order of ‘highest spend’ to ‘lowest spend’.
  • Make it a priority to contact those 20 highest spending cold clients, perhaps two per week. Catch up with them, grow in your understanding of their needs. Breathe new life into them, and win them back.

Just like new business development, winning back cold clients sometimes take a bit of time.

So keep in touch, because a lot can change in the months ahead. You want to be their first choice when they start looking at suppliers again. Connect with them on LinkedIn, get them back on your company newsletter list, diary to call them each quarter.

Build that relationship so well, that when the start of their new financial year rolls around (find out this date too!), your company will get the opportunity to pitch for business in the year ahead. They could even become your new client!


MARY CRAMPTON is the owner and principal consultant at Magnify Consulting

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