Have you lost business for any of the following reasons? A contract cleaner takes over an account that has been buying from you, and they already buy from your competitor; a good account joins a buying group; or, the customer starts buying direct from the manufacturer? Maybe a good account all of a sudden has to buy from a “national seller.” Or your key customer contact, a friend, leaves the company, and the new buyer cleans house. If not, prepare yourself — you’ll face these issues at some point.

The next question is how will you replace that business? I suggest that you replace it proactively. That means you must regularly write new business — selling new products into existing accounts or regularly opening new accounts.

Adding or losing accounts affects long-term gain or loss of sales and profits. To illustrate, review sales for one current account over a period of time. The total dollars generated is impressive.

Probably the quickest way to start writing new business is to review your account list and find the products you aren’t selling to some of your better accounts, and then set up a plan to fill those holes.

You have three basic types of accounts: those that buy a wide variety of your products already; those that present ample opportunity; and those on your list — or at least on your wish list — that haven’t bought anything from you. So, set up a target account list and a target product list. Brush up on your product knowledge, and use resources, such as sales managers, factory reps, literature and demo kits, to get started selling.

If you have called on these accounts before, hopefully you know something about them, such as decision makers’ names, current suppliers, types of products they use, and customer needs you have identified.

Next comes cold-calling. Cold-calling isn’t fun unless you have the right attitude. Look at it as a research project. You may have to do a fair amount of research, but if you plan properly, it will pay off.

New accounts offer endless possibility. Untapped accounts are buying from one or more of your competitors, but if you play your cards right, you can show them any number of new products that can solve the problems your competitors haven’t addressed.

Selling to new accounts requires some planning. A few suggestions: pick one or two market segments where you have had some success. Use the good old Yellow Pages and make a list of similar types of accounts in your territory. Or, try picking one or two market segments where you believe that your product mix will help get your foot in the door. Prepare a plan and ask for help from your sales manager or factory reps.

Also, make sure you are organized when you make cold calls. Do you have a full set of literature? A sales manual or catalog? Demo kits, etc?

When you go fishing, your goal is to catch fish, not just go fishing. Sometimes, you need different types of bait to make sure this happens. The same is true in the sales business.

Develop a survey form and ask questions. Develop a “building audit” checklist or a “needs analysis form.” Remember, you are not selling products, you are selling clean and healthy buildings, along with labor-saving ideas to accomplish that.

There is no better way to ensure the future of your business than to set up a formal new-account plan. Sales managers: How about a new-account contest as an incentive for your sales force?

I know that in today’s selling vernacular we talk about selling systems, but sometimes you must start by selling one product to a new account. It opens the door for growth and the future sales.

To share your selling ideas, fax: (414) 228-1134, contact Mr. Dixon at (877) 379-3566 or e-mail.