Deep down inside, many sellers secretly live from “day to day”, keeping a close eye on their pipelines. Forced by the never-ending pressure of quarterly targets to perform (and keep performing), they are in constant search of new leads, new deals and new sources of revenue.
But is all that even really necessary ?
I’d argue that most sellers would be well served by taking a very different approach to the way they handle their business. Specifically, I’d argue they need to focus more on serving their existing clients, and less on bringing in fresh, new leads.
Why ? It’s simple: selling to existing clients is cheaper, easier and tends to generate larger deals. There’s a truly compelling case to be made for spending a lot of your time trying to generate additional revenue from the clients you’ve already served, and with whom you have a great, flourishing relationship.
So let’s take a deeper dive into 6 ways you can generate more revenue from existing clients.
For practical purposes, I’ll refer to cross-selling as the ability to sell additional products and services related to the first or main one you’ve already sold to a client. If you’re selling products, think maintenance contracts, insurance and others, similar things. If you’re selling services, think training, consulting and implementation support.
Cross-selling is a wonderful strategy to generate revenue from existing clients, that can generate substantial amounts of additional revenue from a single sale (think 20-30% easily). What’s also great about it is that it tends to be a very easy sell: after all, your client is already convinced of the value of buying the first product or service from you. If you position the add-ons in a way that helps them see how they could get more value out of their initial purchase, you’re in a good place to win the additional sales as well.
When you’re cross-selling, don’t fall into the trap of merely trying to generate revenue from existing clients for the sake of your bottom line – no matter how compelling this may seem when you’re struggling to meet your sales goals, inevitably, strategies like this backfire and lead to erosion of client trust in the long term.
Instead, focus on finding ways in which additional services would truly benefit your client, and increase the enjoyment, results and benefits they will receive from their purchase.
Up-selling is a strategy where you attempt to get a client to buy a higher-priced product or service, most often with “upgraded” specs or service levels. Think “gold tier” packages with additional/superior services built in, for example.
Up-selling can work very well, especially in cases where you’re dealing with a client who has substantial spending power and is relatively insensitive to price – clients who place value over price are ideal candidates for this kind of strategy.
Don’t be afraid to be creative: rather than pick something off the shelf that already exists, you may need to “create” a package you can upsell your client on by combining already existing components of your offering into something new.
If done well, there will be a compelling case for your client to take advantage of the upgrade.
As with cross-selling, don’t just attempt to up-sell for the sake of it, or as a matter of routine (unless you happen to work at McDonalds).
3. Repeat selling
Many sellers are so focused on winning that first sale, they completely lose sight of the fact that there are often many other repeat sales just waiting around the corner. Even though repeat selling may be easier to achieve in certain industries (think commodities like washing powders, beauty products, …) don’t discount it as a strategy for selling high-end services as well. In fact, many successful professional services firms I know of thrive due to their focus on the long-term potential to generate revenue from existing clients.
Often, by getting a little creative with your offer, you can build what would normally appear to be a one-time only sale into a series of successive sales wins. Rather than just sell the annual financial audit, why not enter into a five-year contract ? Rather than simply selling one-off legal advice, why not offer your client the option of working with them on a retainer basis?
4. Referral selling
Referral selling is mostly used as a strategy to uncover, identify and build relationships with new leads inside other companies within your potential market. But it’s also a great strategy to expand your generate revenue from within existing clients – especially the larger ones, where there’s often a significant amount of potential business to be done in other departments, business units and/or regions.
I recommend starting with referral selling early on in the process – in fact, I recommend setting up the entire referral process from even before you started delivering your product or service. Simply ask your client something along the lines of “I was wondering. If this goes well, and you’re satisfied with the results that we’re delivering, would you consider introducing us to a few others inside your organization?”
Not only does this open the door wide for you to ask for referrals further down the road, it also creates an emotional commitment – and it’s a great sign that you’re confident in the future value that your product or service will deliver to your prospective client.
5. Phased Selling
Personally, I find this to be one of the most-often overlooked strategies for generating additional business with clients. Due to their focus on short-term results, many sellers (unfortunately) miss the opportunity to take a long-term perspective on a new client relationship, and build in a “phased approach” to how that relationship will develop.
In short, they focus on the first sale, and the first sale only.
Rather than just focus on the first sale, start exploring options for doing additional work with the client early on in the sales process. I don’t mean immediately (that would fall under cross-selling or up-selling), but 6, 9, or even 12 months down the road.
Think about any new client relationship as built in phases. As the relationship matures, there will no doubt be additional opportunities for you to work together, add value and deliver more of your valuable services to them.
I find that it’s helpful to make this explicit, early on in the relationship, rather than leaving it to chance. The very best time to bring up the fact that you’d like to build a long-term relationship, and you have other services to offer the client as the relationship matures is in the very beginning.
6. Pilot selling
Sometimes, and for a variety of reasons, we find ourselves in situations where a new client doesn’t want “the full package” just yet. Maybe they can’t afford it, or they don’t want to take a huge bet on a new supplier. Whatever the case, they want to do something with you that is smaller in scope – and that’s OK.
When faced with situations like this, many sellers will simply comply and offer the reduced package. “Any win is better than no win”, so the thinking goes.
However, when you find yourself faced with a situation like this, I highly recommend you keep the door open for purchasing the full package, and/or additional products and services from you at some point when the pilot is completed.
Again, make this explicit, and discuss it openly. In fact, sometimes phrasing it as an expectation on your side may be helpful. But don’t come across as too strong. Rather than say “OK. We’ll just do the pilot”, say “We’ll start with the pilot. When that’s finished and you’ve seen the kinds of results we can deliver, what do you think about continuing with the next phase of the project as initially defined ?”
The six strategies I outline above can work miracles for your pipeline, and the revenue you are able to generate over time from a single client or account – as well as the successive, growing value you deliver for them. I highly recommend you try to use at least one of them (feel free to try combining several) into your next sales proposal.
When using these six strategies to generate more revenue from existing clients, keep the following “rules” in mind:
- Always discuss the “next level” sale early in the process – as early as possible
- Make sure you do so in a way that makes it clear there is real, additional value to the client in expanding the relationship
- Phrase it as an expectation, as something you would “reasonably expect to see happen” if all goes according to plan
- Ask the client to commit to it now (dependent on you meeting their performance expectations). Don’t push it off into the future