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Farquharson/Tedesco on Business Development: Don't Give Up on 'Lost Causes'

April 2013

The "lost causes" file. You know you have one. It's filled with the customers you just know will never do business with you again. You're so sure, you haven't even bothered contacting them in over a year. Each one represents a dark moment for your company: a blown deadline on a critical print job, an incorrect billing you didn't own up to, a rude delivery name it. Regardless of the reasons, the result is the same: You aren't getting their business.

Guess what? There's no better time than the present to give these former clients another shot! We know what you're thinking: "No way! Not these prospects! Not after what happened last time." To which your authors say, "Toughen up, soldier!" It's time to wipe the dust from these files and rap on those doors once more. Here are five rules to keep in mind as you call on these prospects, hat in hand:

Rule #1: Forget Price Concessions. We're guessing some of these lost causes were stolen away by a competitor with rock-bottom pricing. Perhaps you're wondering if you should bend to market pressure and give them the price they want. Let us be clear about this one—heck no! You're better than that. Lower prices may have made these customers leave, but there's no guarantee that lower prices will bring them back.

Plus, you have much more to offer than a low price. You don't sell widgets; you sell printing solutions. Your focus should be on how your company can help each prospect win more customers. That's a heck of a lot stronger than a 20 percent discount.

Rule #2: Be Honest and Be Creative. Calling on your lost causes may seem like as productive as waiting in line at the DMV. But you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. After all, your establishment has improved in the past year or two, right? You aren't the same incompetent company these folks remember. You're smarter, faster, nicer and people actually like doing business with you!

When you're trying to revive long-dead relationships, you might as well take a chance and get a little creative. Try sending them a "we've changed" letter, complete with a list of your prior shortcomings and what you've done to correct them. Self-deprecation may be just the icebreaker you need. No matter what you say and how you say it, remember that honesty may be the biggest factor in whittling down your "lost causes" file.



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