Contacting lost accounts


Customers will normally schedule time to speak with you, but it’s not easy to get ahold of lost accounts. My hit ratio is about 50%, meaning that if I want to speak with 10 accounts, I need to target 20.

Below are some tips for increasing your chances of making contact with losses. By the way, if you’re not allowed to call customers at all, check out a previous article in this series, “What to do if you’re not allowed to call customers“. Once you get permission (or decide to call anyway (!)), here are some tips:

  • Before you call:
    • Take time to review the sales log and summarize what you find so that when you do make contact, you can get the most information in the least amount of time. Losses won’t spend long with you; every question counts.
    • For the same reason, plan your interview goals and sample questions carefully.
  • In your attempts to contact:
    • Promise to take only 15 minutes of their time. Once you get them on the phone they’ll never notice if you go over.
    • Use both phone and email to make contact. Call first, but when you leave a vmail (90% of the time you get vmail), tell them you’ll send an email with more information.
    • Prepare a script for your vmail message. I’ve provided a sample below.
    • For your email, be concise, and remember that the email will likely be read on blackberry. I’ve provided a sample below.
    • Offer something in return for their time. I offer to make a donation on their behalf to a charitable organization of their choice. I don’t mention the size of the donation, and normally they don’t ask. If they ask, say $50.
  • Dial, dial, dial. If you refuse to give up, they’ll eventually talk to you.
  • Once you get them on the phone:
    • be careful about time but don’t stress about the 15 minute promise. 20 minutes isn’t much different and they won’t notice unless your questions start getting boring to them.
    • When you hear the boredom setting in, your time is almost up.
    • Most people love to talk about themselves. If your questions are good the person will likely be fairly responsive.
    • Put some easy questions early in the call to build trust. Emphathize with the person. Once you feel they are warming up, start to introduce the meatier questions such as price, discounts, etc.
    • Don’t reveal your company off the bat. Try to see whether they remember you. When I was an employee, I generally initiated contact from a non-corporate phone and email.
  • At the end of the phone call, thank them for their time and ask whether you can call back with follow ups. Often they’ll say yes, and it’s useful to have a list of friendly losses.

Here is an email template that I commonly use. Note the brevity.

Subject:     app mgmt research       // short forms mean you’re for real, get the subject into minimal space, and mention research

NAME,
We have not met. I am researching mobile device mgmt and would like to get your input. If you would agree to a short call (15min) to help with my research, I will make a donation on your behalf to one of the organizations listed below.
•    American Red Cross
•    Children’s Hunger Fund
•    Feeding America
•    World Wildlife Fund
If you have another organization that is not listed, I can probably direct the donation to them.

Your views will remain confidential and used only for this product research.

Alan

Alan Armstrong
Eigenworks Inc.
416-686-4834

If you have some techniques I haven’t mentioned, please leave a comment to share them with the other readers.

Other articles in this series on Win/Loss Analysis:

What’s the deal with Win/Loss Analysis?

How NOT to do Win/Loss Analysis (Part 1: CRM Reporting)

What to do if you’re not allowed to call customers

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4 responses to “Contacting lost accounts

  1. Alan, what a great topic; your approach is spot on. Make the call valuable for the lost customer and it will inevitably lead to positive opportunities in the future.

    Several years ago I called the director of IT at a company to which we had lost a deal. I asked him questions that focused on their company and their needs (always about “you” not “me”). We got around to discussing why they had chosen our competitor; it was because someone in their company had a close connection with the sales rep from the competitor’s company. At the end of the call thanked him and kept the door open for future correspondence.

    Several months later they came back and purchased our product (after they had determined the competitor’s product would not work for them). You never know what’s going to happen, so make the best of win/loss call opportunities. -Michael

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