Turning Customers Into Long-Term Relationships And Increased Profits.

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The Section 84 Deemed Dividend Rules

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Taxation Issues for Canadian Corporations with Foreign Affiliates

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Using Joint Ventures To Capitalize On Real Estate Investments

Research tax-efficient structures to facilitate real estate investing.

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The Replacement Property Rules

Using the Income Tax Act to avoid tax.

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Corporate Tax Planning:

Utilizing the butterlfy.

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The Corporate Attribution Rules

Navigating through the delicate nature of non-arms length transactions.

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Turning Customers Into Long-Term Relationships And Increased Profits.



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It’s common knowledge that, over the last 20 years, business ownership has become more serious in terms of competition.

Increased competition and graduates have watered down the client pool for all business owner, and so the mantra to innovate, change, and adapt to customer needs – and desires – applies just as much to those playing on the kitchen table practicing in the dental industry as to participants in others.

How can the new, emerging, or even established business owner acquire new clients and retain those clients so that they become long-term, profitable, referring champions of your business?  If you’re a business owner, these are, in our opinion, the types of clients that will facilitate a healthy, growing business.

Whereas for years sales departments (which may be just yourself) at many other businesses have been focused on processes and tasks, successful selling of services today is better achieved via the application of what is referred to by Brent Adamson, director of the Corporate Executive Board, as Insight Selling.[1]

 This post is not one of how to optimally provide your products/services, but rather a conversation on how to implement the best sales strategy at the office given current and potential customer approaches and sentiments towards what has been traditionally referred to as “the sales wheel”.

Adamson promotes the Insight Selling process by first stating that, over the years, as sales departments have tightened compliance belts and focused more on adherence to processes and tasks, sales performance has grown increasingly erratic.  People today tend to take longer to make sales decisions.  How do we change this?

The keys to winning in the new business environment involve owners abandoning the process drives sales program and instead relying on judgment amongst managers, assistants and themselves.  This means cultivating relationships with customers through conversation and trust building and finding out who they are as people and how your products/services fit in with their perception, rather than seeing those products/services as a homogenously independent component of their daily lives.

Customers are savvy – they research businesses prior to visiting them and know what they want prior to visiting, so business owner’s don’t have to do this part of the selling – the customer already knows what he/she wants – albeit in an unclear way.  The true goal of the office staff is to guide the custmer to the decisions that his/her talking points are already pointing towards, but that have yet to be refined and articulated.  The owner and staff need to recognize the need of the owner and provide the solution that he/she is looking for.

Part of the Insight Selling path involves acquiring an understanding of what that need is.  Customers may divulge the need plainly, or it may be implied within their conversation.  It’s the task of the business owner and staff to ascertain that need, whether or not it’s camouflaged, and glean this information, within the context of helping the customer and providing value to him/her.



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Does this mean taking extra time to cultivate relationships?  Possibly, but the long-term benefits are self-explanatory: a more densely-populated customer Pipeline invariably leads to more sales and to more Referral Champions.  The Referral Champions - once promoted to this level - themselves need to be cultivated, and the office of course needs a Referral Program.  That is, however, an extension of the Insight Selling process, and another component in the overall effort to attract and retain customers.

With traditional process selling, people are given a list of tasks to complete, in the hopes that such tasks will guide the potential or current customer to a hoped-for set of actions – preferably a purchase decision.  However, the sequential tactics that once led to predictable progress in a sale or a retained customer are no longer applicable.  Adamson calls this reality “The end of Solution Sales” because the customer many times already knows the solution – they’ re looking for something, or someone else, to implement it.  Could it be trust, experience, a guiding hand?

A common consensus is that business owners need to serve as coaches rather than enforcers – guiding the customer to the right product/service, when applicable.

In today’s customer-intelligent arena, task lists should be replaced with “customer verifiers”.  If the customer responds favourably to a suggestion from one of your staff, then this should be documented and taken as an indication that the customer is interested, thereby promoting follow-up to secure the sale - in a way that preserves any trust accrued to that point.  In pursuit of customer verifiers, staff, and business owners, are left open to consider creative ways to determine what the customer wants, and how to elicit verifiers, based on customer behaviors and dispositions.

Focusing on customer behaviors - and also client pre-dispositions to types of communication that, if adhered to correctly, can increase the likelihood of a long-term relationship - can greatly enhance the success rate of customer conversions.

If a potential new client is speaking to you, the business owner, or a staff member, verifying whether the customer is ready for change, we suggest, is a prerequisite for pursuing a sale.  So make a list – what are the series of identifiers that most reflect how your current and potential customers make buying decisions.

Importantly, this selling approach is about creating demand, not simply responding to it.  A normal side-effect of the Insight Selling process is that customers respond favorably to the pro-active guidance of office staff and accrue trust with them and, by relation, your business.  This is an important step towards securing a long-term customer and referral champion.

It’s interesting to note that SalesForce, the software company producing Sales Application and Customer Resource Management Solutions to guide the sales process at small, medium and large businesses both domestically and internationally, explains it’s solution, Salesforce1, as their effort  “…to getting an entirely new contextual depth of intelligence about customers…” 

 Ashley Haynes-Gaspar, the Chief Marketing Office for General Electric Oil and Gas, explains how Salesforce1 is giving her division the opportunity to co-create with customers and drive direct, measurable financial results.  Their efforts with the “Insight Selling” process are changing “how customers think about how to manage their businesses”[2]

We mention this to reinforce the point that Insight Selling is not just a new way to serve the customer, but rather to drive new sales and more referral champions.

Insight Selling has become the prevalent way of selling, and is consistent with the way customers think and perceive today’s service providers.  This leads to satisfied customers and staff, because through the years history has shown us that engagement among people is at the heart of business success, which itself plays a substantial role in workplace satisfaction.



Nicholas Kilpatrick is a partner at the accounting firm of Burgess Kilpatrick in Vancouver, B.C.  He specializes in business development, and has worked with business owners to increase profitability at all stages of their businesses.  He can be reached at nkilpatrick@burgesskilpatrick.com or at 604-327-9234.



[1] Adamson, Brent; Dixon, Matthew; Toman, Nicholas; Dismantling The Sales Machine; Harvard Business Review, November 2013, pp102ff

[2] Columbus, Louis, Salesforce1 Sets An Ambitious Strategy To Redefine Selling And Customer Relationships, www.Forbes.com, November 19, 2013.

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