Many years ago when I lived in another town, I used to visit a farm stand during the summer months.
The lady who ran the stand didn't have nearly the selection of the local grocery store, and her produce was even a bit more expensive than the store's.
But she knew my name. And she used it every time she saw me.
She was friendly. She put an extra apple in my bag now and then. And every time I left the stand, she sent me off with a warm "thank you" and an invitation to come back soon.
I didn’t get any of that from the grocery store.
Yes, the store was fancier and air conditioned, but I never walked out with the sense that I had just been cared for.
The lady at the farm stand quickly earned my loyalty by making me feel important, showing her appreciation for my business, and giving me added value.
Can you see how that approach could go a long way toward helping you win and keep customers?
It’s much easier, less expensive and more profitable to sell ten different products to one happy, loyal person than to sell one product to ten relatively disengaged people.
So, consider making account penetration a higher priority: increase your share of each customer, rather than increasing your share of the market.
Meeting that goal requires strengthening relationships with your most important customers; learning their wants, needs, pains and goals, and actively looking for opportunities to care for them.
When you take a legitimate interest in helping your customers succeed, when you serve more as a consultant and less as a vendor looking for a quick sale, when you truly work on behalf of your customers’ interests, you’ll earn the type of loyalty that's necessary for deeper relationships to prosper.
Partner with your best customers. Find ways to get more involved with their businesses, and let them into yours. Develop ways you can work together for the betterment of both companies. As a partner that delivers real value, you become much harder to shake when cheaper competitors move into the market.
Finally, the customer whose business consistently nets your company a million dollars per year is more valuable to you than the customer who spends a couple thousand dollars once in a while, so why treat those two customers equally?
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply the basics of good service to every customer, but committing the same resources to the smaller client can't possibly yield the same return.
And if your employees believe there is no difference between customers, they’ll have no incentive to provide preferential treatment to those who deserve it.
However you choose to measure their importance to you, your more valuable customers should receive an even higher degree of service. After all, they pay for it every day with their loyalty to you.