Reigniting the Flame
Do you even want the client back? 5/28/2018 | Bill Petrie, Petrie's Perspective
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Sales trainers, managers, and coaches usually spend most of their time discussing strategies for winning new clients. Volumes of books have been written – and many fortunes have been made – dissecting the subject. One topic in sales that isn’t discussed enough is how to reignite the flame with someone who bought from you in the past, but is no longer a customer. This entails more than downloading “dormant customer” into an excel spreadsheet and highlighting the top ten – you first need to ask an important question regarding each dormant account:

Do you even want the client back?

Let’s face it, not every customer is an ideal client. In fact, many customers can be difficult to work with, may share your ideas with the competition, or habitually pay late. If they fall into any of the categories of clients you should fire – time vampires, idea shoppers, angry abusers, or invoice procrastinators – it’s not a client you want back.

Once you have a manageable (no more than 10) list of clients you want to reignite, it’s time to execute a strategy:

1. Understand Why – Before you try to rebuild a relationship, it’s important to understand why they stopped buying from you in the first place. For example, if it was a pricing issue than there is a disconnect between the value you offer beyond simple decorated product and their perception of that value. Even if you fail to bring them back into the client fold, you’ll gain valuable insight that may help you save a future client from leaving.

2. Accept Responsibility – If you made a mistake (delivery, pricing, billing, PMS match, quality, etc.) accept 100% of the responsibility. Additionally, do everything in your power to fix what went wrong with no assumption that they return as a client. By working to fix an issue from a place of service rather than expectation, you have a much greater chance of winning them back.

3. Add Value – Marketers and salespeople alike love to extol the fact that they “add value,” but unless you are specific, the phrase is meaningless. Every time the words “add value” are used, it’s critical to add the word “of” and explain what exactly that means. For example, sharing with a former client that you have “realigned resources to ensure we provide each client with the value of cost efficiencies” is far more impactful than saying “we add value to every transaction.”

4. Leverage Suppliers – Suppliers are a tremendous resource for not just products – but, more importantly, how to position and sell those products. Many times, a well-written case history or a special on a specific product will provide the value a dormant client is seeking. Remember, the job of the supplier representative is to help the distributor sell more product.

There’s an old saying in sales that, paraphrased, states “the day you get land a client is the day you begin to lose them.” Before you try to reignite the buying flame in those lost clients, first determine if you want them back. Once you decide that you do, accept responsibility, share the specific value you add, and leverage your supplier partners to give those dormant accounts a real reason to reengage with you.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 17 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, immediate past president of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), vice president of the Regional Association Council (RAC) board, and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, and developing branding that resonates with a target audience. He can be reached at

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