How Do You Keep “Dead” Customers Alive?


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Have you ever had a dead customer? That is one who has not bought from you in some time. Perhaps they have even stopped returning calls. What do you do?

I recently completed a sales training seminar where the homework was to call such customers and ask if was OK to delete them from my database – ask for a “No” as opposed to the usual asking for a “Yes.” The technique worked extremely well, with several relationships becoming active again (with projects!) which had been dormant (dead) for 5 years or more! Sure, some customers opted out of being contacted, but they were not interested any more and not likely to become clients. Ah, but others opted back in!

The Chief Marketing Officer Council (CMO) recently found that fully two thirds of those who responded to their benchmarking survey had no system for re-activating dormant or dead customers! I found this surprising. What it tells me is that a great many accounts are languishing in a large number of companies without closure: are they a real prospect or not? The trainer that I had said that those who keep these customers in their dormant state are living on “hopium” – a drug that makes you think these customers will come around someday, some how.

The trainer suggested that all of us in his training seminar call at least 10 of these dormant customers and ask them if it was OK to drop them from the contact list. In that way, there would be no more hopium; you would know one way or the other.

Are you taking hopium? Do you have a way to re-activate dead customers, a plan or a process? In my experience, many of these potential customers had wants, needs and pains to discuss with me. We both won when the relationship was re-established (potential projects) or dropped (no more wasting time, no more hopium). The closure felt good in all cases. What is your situation?

Chris Stiehl
Chris has helped companies save money and sell more by understanding their customers better. He once saved a company $3 million per year for a one-time research expense of $2K. What does your competition know about your customer that you don't know?


  1. Death is inevitable. However, it is important to understand the cause of death before simply accepting death. It is almost impossible to cure or prevent any disease without knowing its cause.

    Daryl Choy
    Make Little Things Count


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