Published October 4, 2012 | Updated January 9, 2020

The hardest sale you’ll ever make is the first sale to a new customer. That’s not to say that all of your subsequent sales to that customer will necessarily be easy, because chances are they won’t. The good news is that there are several ways to make all of the subsequent sales almost guaranteed transactions if you do one simple thing properly.

That one simple thing is building a lasting customer relationship. The reason subsequent sales become easier is that once a customer gets to know—and trust—you, there are far fewer hurdles to overcome in closing additional transactions. Once your value propositions have been established and reinforced, you don’t have to overcome the challenge of “selling yourself” any longer. This allows you to focus instead on the solution that you are proposing while getting right to the heart of the matter.

It’s also important to remember that the first sale you make to a customer is not only the hardest, but it’s also the most expensive. The cost of customer acquisition varies from organization to organization, but it’s never cheap. In fact, this cost is an important metric to track to optimize your marketing spend and to ensure that you are getting the most “bang for the buck” in your marketing dollars.

This leads us back to the all-important customer relationship and another important metric—the lifetime value of a customer. A surprisingly large number of businesses focus on closing individual equipment transactions and gear their sales and marketing processes to that end. They tend to think about their customers in terms of separate pieces of equipment, and not as long-term business partners, which is exactly what a customer should become. This is a mistake since a customer’s real value should be based on how much equipment they will potentially acquire throughout the business relationship.

To build these strong and lasting customer relationships, here are some things you should consider. The first, and arguably the most important, is to ensure that you provide unmatched value to your customers, on every transaction that you do with them. Unless you consistently deliver value beyond expectations, a long-lasting relationship is out of the question. There are too many competitors who are willing to step in and take the customer away from you if the customer isn’t happy with your products and services. Consistently exceeding expectations is not necessarily easy to do, but it’s essential.

The second thing that’s required for long-lasting customer relationships is good communication. You need to be dialed into your customer’s business so that you know what’s going on in their operation, particularly in terms of problems and needs. This enables you to proactively create solutions and solve problems, saving them time, money, and stress. Your customers will come to rely on you and your company as trusted advisors who help them to be more profitable. Over time, this bond will become even more secure as your value becomes apparent.

Good communication also works both ways, because it’s important for your customers to understand what’s going on in your business as well. New equipment and services that you’re offering, along with the other ways that your company adds value, should be communicated continuously to all of your customers. Surprisingly, sales opportunities are often missed simply because the customer doesn’t know all of the products and capabilities that their equipment dealer has to offer. It’s critical to update your customers about how you can help them.

Finally, the third essential element of a long-term customer relationship is a financial bond. The more closely you are tied to your customers financially, the more enduring the relationship will be. The best way to do this is to provide seamless financing for as many of your customer transactions as possible.

It’s the same strategy that large retail stores have used for years. A customer that has a charge account with a particular retail chain will likely shop there first since they can acquire merchandise without tying up cash or other lines of credit. This by no means limits the shoppers’ ability to go elsewhere, but the financial relationship provides a powerful bond as well as brand loyalty.

The same holds true for an equipment vendor. By offering seamless financing of your transactions, you are building a strong financial bond. Customers can use the financing you provide and avoid tapping into their cash reserves or utilizing other lines of credit. Financing equipment acquisitions significantly strengthens any customer relationship.

Furthermore, there are tools and options that can further enhance the bond and add even more customer loyalty. A good example of this is a master lease that, once approved and in place, allows customers to acquire new equipment very quickly and efficiently, with a minimal amount of paperwork and administrative hassles. Customers are far less likely to shop for equipment elsewhere when they know that they can get it from you easily.

The point to all of this is that making the first sale to a new customer will always be the hardest, most expensive sale that you make. With that in mind, make it a critical business objective to nurture and build these relationships in order to optimize the revenue potential that they represent. Do this by delivering value far beyond expectations, communicating effectively, and by building a strong financial bond with all of your customers.