Sustain Your Sales: How to Make Sure Your Top Customers Stay Your Top Customers  

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but the warning signs of a potential recession are all around us. While we all hope it doesn’t come to pass, you need to be proactive just in case. Building a sustainable business model before any downturn happens is the smart play. If an economic downturn does occur, you’ll be better prepared. If not, you’ll have taken steps to solidify your business.
What should you do to prepare? Get closer to your clients right now.

Start Getting Sticky

For most stone fabricators, the biggest revenue source comes from wholesale clients, builders, kitchen and bath, etc. So, you want to take a look at your client base and categorize them into tiers. Figure out your best grouping of clients and start getting sticky.
Have you ever tried to super-glue something and get some on your fingers? Even after scrubbing off the residue, you might still be picking at it for days or weeks. It’s a constant reminder of the job you did. You want to be that sticky with your clients — constantly reminding them of the value you bring. You want them to know you support them and value their business.
However, it’s not just about the basic products or services you provide. It’s about the things you do that make you invaluable to them.

Dependability and Communication

Your wholesale clients aren’t simply concerned with price, they chose stone fabricators based on two important things: dependability and communication. If either is lacking, clients have a big problem.
Look at things from their point of view. For example, a builder managing several homes might be coordinating several dozen contractors and scheduling all of them on tight timetables to meet deadlines. So, if they’ve scheduled a plumber on a Tuesday, the countertops had better be there on a Monday. Dependability is crucial. If you told them 30 days ago that the countertop would be installed on a particular day, it darn well better be solid on that day. Because the plumber is there the next day to put in the hardware and connections. If you miss the install date, you can easily create a ripple effect that throws off the builder’s entire schedule.
The second piece is communication. Let’s say a builder orders a specific piece of Quartz and it’s coming from your supplier. You find out that the delivery from your supplier is running a few days behind. We all understand that things can happen that are out of control, but bad news never gets better with age. You need to know about any delays as soon as possible and communicate with your client. You may not always be perfect, but you can always communicate. And, it’s a heck of a lot better to tell them two weeks in advance versus 48 hours. The more notice you give them, the better they can plan.
Stick close to your top-tier clients and suppliers to keep those lines of communication open.
Everybody has a schedule of when a quote is accepted. That starts a series of events to meet delivery and installation dates. From the time a quote is accepted to install, there might be dozens of interim steps before the job is complete. You need to map the interim steps and have a schedule to track any potential bottlenecks. For example, are you always projecting 30 days from the coded date? Is it always 30 days? What is the probability that you’ll hit that 30-day mark? In other words, how accurate and predictable is your calendar?
If it’s not accurate at a highly predictable rate, you need to identify what’s preventing it. If you can isolate where potential bottlenecks can occur and correct it, you can significantly increase your dependability with your clients and that’s the kind of relationship you want — one where they know they can depend on you and that you’re always going to deliver. And, if there are problems, you’re going to let them know in plenty of time so they can adjust their plans before they become a crisis.

How Can I Help?

Those are powerful words but rarely spoken in business. Think about it for a moment. When was the last time a vendor asked if they could help and really meant it? If they did — and it was genuine — think about how that would affect your relationship, especially if they could fix one of your problems.
In many cases, they might be able to make a minor change in what they do, but it could solve a big problem for you. That’s a win.
Even more importantly, when was the last time you went to your best customers and asked, “How can I help you?” If you can do that, and really listen, you can help them solve their problems and find ways to grow their business (and your relationship).
Looking at your top-tier clients as a group, you’ll likely find many of them have the same concerns. If you can dig into their pain points and offer a solution, you can use it across multiple clients. If you do that, here’s what’s going to happen when the economy turns around. They’re going to remember that you were there to help, not just make a sale. At the same time, you will have new capabilities, so you’ll be better prepared to move forward with a stronger customer base.

Complacency Is the Enemy

When things are going well, it’s easy to make assumptions.
Orders come in. Invoices go out. Bills get paid. Things seem to be going fine and then suddenly you lose a client. It’s happened to all of us. Customers don’t always share when there’s an issue and their problems may have nothing to do with you. But, it becomes your problem when they stop doing business with you.
Find out what that issue is now and do something about it. That only happens when you know them well and can have honest conversations. “How can I help?” may get the conversation started, but it requires talking about things that go beyond your business. There are often problems you can help solve that a client would never think to bring up.
I’m a big fan of Dan Sullivan’s D.O.S. conversation strategy. D.O.S. stands for Dangers, Opportunities, and Strengths.


Talk to your clients about what they fear. In other words, what they are afraid of losing or moving backward?


Learn what opportunities they are excited about — especially the things they would regret if they could not capture.


Find out what they are confident about and the strengths they’ve gained from previous experiences that they can maximize.
These emotions – fear, excitement, and confidence — become the raw materials for strengthening your relationship. Look, I’ve been married for 15 years and I’m still learning about my wife and what’s most important in our relationship. You know how it works; you often don’t find out things until you ask.
Such conversations can uncover hidden information a client might never tell you otherwise and you may have a way to help. They may not know your capabilities or connections so they’d never think to ask. Once you gain this knowledge, however, you may be in a position to help. Maybe you have a connection with a key vendor they’re trying to attract or can offer a different way to approach payment structures to free up capital so they can take on more jobs. There are all sorts of possibilities that may arise that you’d never know about otherwise.
And, when things get really tight or business picks up, your clients will remember who was there to help and made an investment in them.
This strategy isn’t going to work with every client you have. I know because I’ve lost some clients over the years. What I learned is that the clients who do respond will create stronger relationships that can last well into the future. Those that don’t can free up your time to provide greater value to the clients you do have.

Build Relationships and a Sustainable Business

Building stronger relationships is key to building a sustainable business. The economy will turn around and improve at some point. These strong relationships will serve you well with your clients when business is booming. In the meantime, getting sticky and finding ways to help now before and during a recession can help keep clients doing business with you.
At Grand Onyx, we help stone fabricators increase their revenue by 30% to 300% using proven techniques and a World Class Blueprint SystemTM to help you build a more profitable, scalable business. if we can help you grow your business, get in touch.

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