Existing Customers

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One of the several career hats I've worn was that of sales manager.  We sold a high value one time purchase product.  Invariably I saw my sales people repeatedly making the same mistake.  They wouldn't stay in touch with their existing referral sources and previous clients who were a great source of new business.  They were too busy trying every conceivable means of finding new customers and new referral sources while letting relationships with existing referral sources and previous customers atrophy.  This happened despite the fact that their existing referral sources and previous clients had access to and relationships with people who were ideal prospects for us.  But referrals from these relationships didn't happen automatically.  My sales people needed to maintain  ongoing contact and provide continuous value adds to receive the number of referrals that were possible.
It's been said that there are only two ways to increase sales; sell more to existing customers (and I would add referrals from existing customers) or find new customers.  For many businesses, previous customers are a great source of new business and referrals.  Developing this source of business is both efficient, cost effective and carries less risk. 
If you've done a good job for your previous customers and they're happy with you, keeping in touch with them can create an extremely high return on time and money invested.  Keeping in touch can be as simple as value added mail or e-mail campaigns, making phone calls on a consistent basis, or the occasional visit, depending on what's appropriate for your type of business.  Show your previous customers on a consistent basis that you appreciate them, would like to do business with them again and that you'd welcome their referrals, and they will likely reward you with new business and new customers.
Develop a customer contact system appropriate for your business.  Develop new products to sell your existing customers.  Create a loyalty program for existing customers.  They like you and will buy from you if you stay in touch.  And ask for referrals and even reward referrals if this is appropriate for your type of business.  Make this a priority and do it consistently. 
The alternative is to constantly try and find new prospects and convince them to do business with you, usually with marketing and advertising spends, large amounts of sales development time, and the possible need to discount to get them to buy from you.  Further, if you sell on terms, they have no payment track record with you, so you've increased your risk of not getting paid.  That's the expensive way to do business. 
Don't make the mistake of not staying in contact with your customers.  Selling more to existing customers and asking for referrals is more profitable than finding and developing new customers.  That really is Profitability Thinking. 
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