No apologies. I’ve banged on about this before, and its still important. If you’ve got it in your ISO 9000 procedures that you’ll get feedback from your customers, then you should add a sub-clause or an addendum regarding the customer list.

In B2B your customers are an asset. Just like buildings, plant and equipment, raw and finished stock, there needs to be a register. But, unlike the tangible assets, you won’t have auditors coming round at the end of each financial year, checking them. However, if you analyse the difference between the value of the net assets of your company and its current traded value (the share price), in most cases you will find that the Goodwill (i.e. the difference, which is the value of your customer base), is valued at far more than your plant and stock added together.

I get frightened and upset on a regular basis not only by how long it takes many of our clients to pull together the list of their most important customers, but also by how many mistakes we find in those lists when we come to verify them at the start of the survey.

So, the answer is to have a procedure.

Who is going to maintain the customer list.

How it is going to be maintained.

Where it will be kept.

And please just don’t say ‘In the CRM system’, because in 16 years doing this job I’ve only had one client that didn’t have a CRM system.

And if I hear that my client has SAP then I automatically (and subconsciously) add an extra month into the plan.

One way of maintaining the customer list that I’ve seen that does work well is where the client hired students at vacation time. In their spring, summer and winter holidays the students were given a full customer list. They cross-referenced this list with the invoiced sales and then telephoned each company on the list. The name, job title and contact details of each decision maker and key influencer were checked – old ones were deleted and new ones added.

(I don’t know if they made notes of where the new ones had come from and where the old ones had gone – if they did, then these notes should have been passed on to sales as leads to be followed up. But that’s another story).

What did this give them?

They could market new ideas, new products, special offers and stock clearances to specific individuals.

They could simply stay in touch, show that they cared, from a corporate position rather than a sales rep’s position. (By the way, this is in no way to replace the rep – this actually enhances the rep’s position and helps them to earn more).

They can send Christmas cards.

Which reminds me of an incident over 30 years ago, when I was just a junior.

I worked for a company that supplied Marks & Spencer. One particular department was key to our success. The all-powerful head of the department and the department’s secretary had similar surnames. One year the head of the department received a very nice bottle of perfume. And the secretary was sent tickets for a week’s skiing in Switzerland.

Oh, and if you have a procedure in place to maintain the database of your most valuable assets then you might not have to wait 6 months before we can conduct a survey for you.

See also

The Christmas Card List