December 4, 2016

Business Brief

Why Good Customers Stop Buying – And What Starts Them Up Again
January 31, 2011 by Ken Dooley

Some customers just fade away. They don’t complain. They don’t tell you they’ve found a new supplier. They still take your calls. But over time, they buy less and less.

Some people stop buying for one of three reasons:

  1. Something unrelated happened in their life or business that caused them to lose touch with the salesperson or company. They may not have intended to stop buying, but they did.
  2. They had a problem or an unsatisfying buying experience. They probably never complained, but stopped buying anyway.
  3. Their situation changed so they no longer benefit from the product or service.

The No. 1 Reason They Leave

Research suggests that the main reason they stop buying is lack of contact.

About half of all lapsed buyers were reasonably satisfied and might have kept buying. But the research found that the sales rep didn’t do enough to keep in touch. Once buyers stop dealing regularly with a company, they tend to forget about it – no matter how good the product or service is. They’re perfectly willing to give their business to whoever’s next in line.

Winning ’Em Back

Lapsed buyers won’t come looking for you. Inertia – or even embarrassment – will keep them away. But when you initiate the contact, you greatly increase the chances that they’ll buy again.

The good news: When they do return, they tend to become more frequent, loyal and satisfied buyers. They may need some special handling to get them buying again:

  1. Approach them sincerely and humbly. One of the most disarming ways to get the ball rolling again is to lay all your cards on the table. There’s little to lose and much to gain by a sincere, non-confrontational effort to find out why sales have eroded. For example, you can ask, “Is anything wrong? Have we done something wrong?”
  2. Accept responsibility. Show the customer that you’re prepared to do what it takes to win them back. That tends to neutralize any anger or hostility the customer is feeling.
  3. If there’s a problem, ask how to fix it. Often, customers don’t want all that much. Sometimes it’s simply an apology.
  4. Do something now. It’s better to make amends on the spot than to come back later with a solution.
  5. Look for a memorable gesture. Follow up by doing something noble and special to show your appreciation for the customer’s frankness and willingness to give you another chance.

These efforts won’t reactivate every lapsed customer, of course. But even so, they’re seldom wasted. Even if you don’t get the buyers back on the active list, they can be a good source of referrals and testimonials. And their feedback can tip you off to problems that your other customers might be facing right now.

Adapted from “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got” by Joy Abraham.

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