Forensic Prospecting


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Forensic Prospecting—I wish I could claim inventing this term, but the words popped out of the mouth of a client as we were discussing prospecting approaches.

There’s an untapped gold mine of prospects that sales people overlook or take for granted. These are customers that have done business with us in the past—as far back as we can possibly imagine. We lose contact with too many customers–organizations and individuals, yet they represent a tremendous source of business to us.

Many years ago, we undertook a series of surveys with about 10 clients–across a spectrum of industries. We looked at all the customers that had purchased in certain years, let me call that the “baseline year,” then looked at the purchase patterns in subsequent years. (I’m oversimplifying the analysis for the purposes of this post, if you want details, ask me). Across all the customers, we found remarkably similar patterns. In the first year after the baseline year, only about 40% of the customers purchased again, in later years, it varied between 15-25% of the customers who purchased in the baseline year, purchased again in later years. The simplest way to visualize the results are to think of a hockey stick–pointing in the wrong direction.

We were shocked both by the results and the similarities we saw across disparate companies and industries. We decided to go further to understand the customer who didn’t purchase again and why they didn’t purchase. As you might expect, some were unhappy with products, service, price, quality or other things. But surprisingly, across all the companies, roughly 30% simply said, “we forgot to buy from them.”

What had happened, is that after the original purchase, sales people stopped calling on these customers—or at least with the same frequency they did prior to the purchase. The customers weren’t getting information from the companies they bought from–newsletters, updates, Christmas cards…..

So when the customers needed to purchase similar solutions again, they focused on the suppliers that were foremost in their minds–products they had recently heard about, something they saw in an email, suggestions from peers and colleagues, or from messages or calls from sales people (I’ll include marketing as well). These people had no problem with the company or the products they had originally purchased and would have been delighted to buy again–after all, they knew the company and products. They simply had lost touch and forgot to buy.

It’s not the customers’ fault. It’s not their responsibility to remember us, calling us when they want to buy. It’s important for us to maintain appropriate contact after the sale. Keeping in touch, providing the right information, updates, and frequency of communications. It should be easy to do this with the sophistication of CRM and Marketing Automation tools, but too often we fail.

This is where Forensic Prospecting comes in. There is a rich set of past customers who may be willing to buy–but simply have forgotten. Sales people need to reach out, mine the database of past customers. Many may no longer be there–who’s replaced them? Those who have moved on, where are they? Should we be contacting them? How do we leverage those past relationships–rebuilding them, growing them, nurturing them for when they do want to buy?

Look at your past customers–both the companies and people. Reach out, be curious. You will be surprised at how many are willing to buy–but just forgot.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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