You’re familiar with the 80/20 rule: 20% of your customers account for 80% of your business. It’s actually more like 90/10, but that’s another conversation. Sales meetings are filled with those nice bar charts that show you who those 10-20% customers are: the difference between loss and profit.
Looking at the sales numbers, you know exactly how much each of those customers contribute to your bottom line and the growth of your business. They place big orders consistently. Yes, sometimes they can be a little bit on the high maintenance side, but it’s all for the good of the business.
Then you look over there, far to your right, and see the rest of them — the many customers who, together, don’t come up to your top tier. Not in sales, nor in volume. If you take a closer look at your incoming calls, you may notice that some of those customers are frequently on the other line.
Then you cross reference that with the time spent by your sales reps in the field and some of those people come up again. What’s going on? Why would you spend more time with people who are not as profitable to your business? Surely these people must have some grievances to air and we all know that in this day and age the world is too small not to address complaints.
Failing to address the concerns of an angry or unhappy customer may come and bite back at your business. People talk… and now people blog. So you probe a little further to learn exactly what the issues are. And discover that all is well; these customers are actually quite happy and dangerous. Why? Because they are very likable.
In fact, they may be the most likable people you’ve ever met. Your reps love spending time with them, taking them out for a few rounds of golf or fishing. Sure, bring the spouses as well, why not? So the expenses pile up and the time spent with these fine customers is taken away from potential sales opportunities with other customers or prospects.
What do you do? Do you risk taking your employees away from these satisfied — albeit less profitable — customers? Then you would have an unhappy customer who was accustomed to a certain type of treatment, and an unhappy rep, who was used to spending time with them. When you are in a high intensity sales environment, you come to appreciate the value of a happy customer: it’s a great motivator.
So you may end up running your numbers, communicating the information to your employees, and not firing those customers after all.