Existing Clients Are Key To Sales in 2024

Posted on December 20th, 2023 to Uncategorized

As you reflect on your past year in business and plan for the next, I encourage you to consider the idea that your existing clients will be the key to sales in 2024.

Many consultants and founders I work with agree that this past year has presented some unique and unwelcome challenges. 

With most of the year gripped by economic uncertainty caused by world events and the remaining effects of the pandemic, businesses of all stripes have seen drastic shifts in customer behavior.

In looking at overall trends, there are some common threads:

  • Drastic decline in incoming leads. Consultants say they “feel like someone turned the faucet off.”
  • Leads are taking much longer to make decisions, dragging their feet, “kicking the can down the road,” or worse, GHOSTING!
  • Budgets are being more scrutinized than in prior years — packages that were easy to sell before are suddenly much harder to close, and more hand-holding is required.

You may have experienced some of these challenges, too. 

Or, like some, you did just fine or better than you forecasted! 

This dichotomy of experiences led me to analyze what was working for my clients and what wasn’t, and I came to this conclusion: 

The clients who achieved success focused intensely on strengthening their existing client relationships.

So often, the focus in sales is to bring in new leads, but as you start your planning and set your sales goals, it’s essential to take stock of the potential for increased revenue and deeper scopes of work with your current clients.

In this blog post, I’ll explain why nurturing existing clients is the key to sales in 2024 and how to strategically drum up more business from clients who’ve already benefited from your partnership.

The Benefits of Doubling Down on Existing Clients

When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense: Selling to someone who already knows, likes and trusts you takes much less energy than developing a brand-new lead and making a sale. 

And it will cost you less because acquiring a new customer can cost up to six times more than retaining an existing one, as reported by Entrepreneur.

In its latest Sales Trends Report, Hubspot indicates that high-performing sales pros have spent the last couple of years focused on maintaining existing relationships because they know two things:

  1. In a down economy, your most reliable business comes from existing customers (Hubspot says 72% of B2B sales came from existing customers in 2023).
  2. Existing customers refer the highest-quality leads (and their endorsement can help you make a sale, even when budgets are tighter).

Photo: HubSpot 2024 Sales Trends Report

Yet even with all this evidence, many business owners still require a thoughtful strategy for growing existing accounts.

In the next section, I’ll share a primer and some tips for shoring up your pipeline for more sales in 2024 with existing customers. 

How to Sell More To Existing Clients

To effectively sell more comprehensive services to your current clients, it’s essential to pinpoint specific areas where they have unmet needs. 

This allows you to tailor your approach to nurturing these client relationships strategically.

But before we get into the specific ways to upsell and cross-sell, let’s look at the key to building the foundational relationship you need to sell more.

Are You Their First Call?

Pipedrive defines account management as “a strategic approach to managing and nurturing business relationships with key customers or clients.” 

This definition is acceptable, but it lacks substance. 

What does it look like to strategically approach these relationships — and, further, how can mission-driven subject-matter experts find an approach that feels aligned?

In my view, stellar account management means striving to become an irreplaceable strategic partner for your clients — showing up in service at every turn. 

I’m confident that I’ve achieved high-level account management when I’m among the first to get a phone call when any sales-related issue comes up. 

If my clients know they can pick up the phone and call me anytime (whether they’re currently under contract or not), I’ve positioned myself as the only sales consultant they’ll need. 

But there’s more to it than that. 

In the next section, I’ll explain what it means to position yourself as a trusted partner – the key to generating more sales in 2024.

How to Get Buy-in Before Pitching More Work 

So, how do you execute strong account management, winning more budget along the way with upsells and cross-sells? 

Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

Be a strategic partner, not a vendor. 

Strong account management starts at the very beginning of the relationship by showing up as a strategic partner, not a vendor. 

Vendors are polite and agreeable, taking buyers at their word and feeling grateful for any small contract they may land. 

On the other hand, strategic partners embrace their subject-matter expertise and aren’t afraid to ask tough questions and challenge their thinking in service of the buyer. 

(Remember, according to LinkedIn, 89% of B2B buyers like to be challenged by you!) 

Add value (then add some more). 

You may have heard the old adage, “Under-promise and over-deliver” — these are words to live by. 

When you land a contract with a new customer, prepare to deliver precisely what you promised — and then some. 

Now, I’m not suggesting you wreck your profitability by having poor boundaries and saying yes to every client request — quite the contrary. 

When calculating pricing for profitability, be sure to account for some additional time to surprise and delight your customers — it’ll go a long way to securing a longer-term relationship and prompting fantastic referrals!

Keep the value flowing. 

You may have ended an engagement with a client, but that doesn’t mean you stop serving them. Connect with current and past clients regularly (and not just when you want to sell them something or when it’s time to send a holiday card). 

Some practical ways to stay in touch are to share articles that interest them or new insights you’ve learned.

A great way to stay top of mind and provide a valuable experience to your clients is to offer a regular event or meet-up, either virtually or in person. 

Meet them where they’re at. 

Today’s overwhelmed buyers don’t need more email clogging their inboxes — get more creative and connect with them where they’d love to see you. 

If your customers are active on LinkedIn, get on it! Is there an annual conference that many of your customers attend? Plan to be there!

In your conversations, ask them how they keep up with colleagues, whether they listen to podcasts, read blogs or regularly attend roundtable discussions or workshops. 

How they like to engage will give you ideas and opportunities to establish yourself as part of their invaluable network and plant the seeds for more work together.

Next, we’ll look at two ways to make more sales in 2024 by leveraging the upsell and the cross-sell.

The Upsell

This strategy consists of offering a product or service with high added value and a higher price to a customer in a single purchase.

Here’s a simple example: you’re at the movie theater and hitting the concession stand before the movie starts. You order a small popcorn, and the person behind the counter says, “Would you like to upgrade to a large size for just $1.00 more?” 

That’s an upsell — enhancing the original purchase, thereby increasing the investment.  

Let’s look at a more concrete example: 

As a consultant, you may be pitching a culture change transformation plan. An upsell to this plan could be an executive coaching package.

The executive coaching package is a valuable upsell because it offers personalized coaching sessions for key executives and leaders, focusing on developing leadership skills crucial for driving the cultural change you spell out in your plan.

It may include tailored coaching to address individual leadership styles, skill enhancement in communication and emotional intelligence, and alignment with the organization’s cultural transformation goals.

This upsell ensures a more effective and uniform implementation of cultural change throughout the organization. Directly empowering leaders with ongoing feedback, progress tracking, and exclusive resources enhances their ability to inspire and guide their teams. 

The ultimate benefit is a more substantial, long-lasting impact of the cultural transformation, embedding change at the very core of leadership.

What might an upsell look like in your business?

The Cross-Sell

The meaning of cross-selling is to increase your client’s overall investment by adding complementary products or services. 

Let’s go back to the movie theater concession stand. An example of a cross-sell would be you ordering a small popcorn and the person behind the counter saying, “That popcorn is likely to make you thirsty! Would you like to add a drink with that?” 

That’s a cross-sell — increasing overall investment by adding items the buyer needs. 

Reflecting on the transformation consultant example above, a relevant cross-sell could be a team building workshop series.

Consultants offering culture change transformation services would find this an excellent cross-sell, as the workshop specifically focuses on building trust, improving communication, and fostering collaboration among team members.

It’s likely that when presented as an essential part of the overall service, the client will go for it. 

What might a cross-sell look like in your business?

Upselling and cross-selling clients become much easier when you have an existing relationship with companies who believe in your work and have had success working with you before. 

Your Existing Clients Are Key to Sales

While you’ll always benefit from nurturing client relationships, I believe one key to sales in 2024 will be to double down on your effects with existing clients. There’s much less risk and a much easier sales process when you work with clients who know, like and trust you.

So, as we move into 2024, take stock of your client list and measure your past engagements. List those you’d love to work with and start nurturing them now. 

A friendly, helpful note sharing important, relevant information about their industry or trends that affect them will go a long way in helping you become their trusted partner, leading to deeper scopes of work and more sales in 2024.

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