One of the advantages of witnessing the last recession & the numerous economic swings in the previous 2 decades has been that I can quickly fall back on what worked, what did not & predict in my own ways what would happen next. I’ve had more time in the last couple of weeks to reflect on how my peers & I would lead an organization’s return to profitability.
We are already starting to see, the conversation is beginning to shift from what more we need to do to flatten the curve, to when we can start to re-open parts of the economy. The return to normalcy path is uncertain, but we do know it will come in due time. Organizations are now starting to assess what normal operations will look like following this period of slowdown and restrictions on activity.
A big question on everyone’s mind, including mine, is where do we find stable revenue streams to help a business recover. The straight-forward answer is almost as simple as it sounds – from your existing customer base. Any first-year sales manager will attest that their best customer is the one they already have. I am willing to bet your sales leader feels the same way.
For equipment vendors and OEMs, this is the perfect opportunity for the sales team to re-engage with customers that fell through the cracks. Let’s face it, if our sales teams are not out pounding the pavement, we might as well work the phones and do some data mining. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from just one cursory analysis of your installed base data.
That piece of equipment purchased 10 years ago – from a customer, you haven’t heard from since the day their warranty expired, could be the lifeline your business needs.
Many organizations are likely going to be putting capital investments on hold for some time. When times are uncertain, “cash is king” shifts from being the CFO’s favorite phrase to many company’s new mission. Capital projects are usually first to be cut or delayed requiring many organizations to look at extending the life of existing equipment, perhaps even beyond the OEM’s recommendations. This creates a tremendous opportunity for aftermarket sales and service programs to become a more substantial portion of your organization’s revenue stream.
So the next big question on everyone’s mind is, how do you identify those customers? How do you determine which ones to go after? In my role as VP of Customer Support at STULZ USA, a global manufacturing organization, we implemented an installed base data platform for this very reason. No, we weren’t predicting or expecting a pandemic, but we did recognize the value of our existing customers. STULZ USA’s North American install base is broad and consists of tens of thousands of individual pieces of STULZ HVAC equipment in operation on any given day. We were consistently submitting proposals on new business, but our aftermarket business as well…an afterthought. Parts and Service sales were mostly passive.
However, with an installed base data platform, I was able to shift STULZ to a proactive aftermarket sales program as now I could see where every piece of installed equipment was located, the parts and service sales history, warranty claims, tech support interactions, etc.
Essentially, this was everything I needed to lead a sales transformation for the aftermarket.
The installed base data platform ensured that years of junk data that we had collected in multiple tools & systems was scrubbed & rinsed before being presented to my team and me. So despite our legacy data challenges, we were able to formulate just the right strategies with this clean, reliable version. The installed base data platform was purpose-built for OEMs and continues to work to this day even though I’ve moved on. And that was one of the reasons why we chose that platform over other BI tools – the installed base data platform continues to operate and churn out reliable insights. As the pandemic takes a stronghold & cost-cutting measures are implemented, there just won’t be enough people to manage those BI tools or clean up data. So without the right solution, if your teams had a visibility issue before the pandemic, now you’d be flying blind.
In closing, as we start to think about bringing the economy back to normal and easing of social distancing that will allow corporate offices to re-open, now is the time for leaders to re-think their 2020 strategies. Those new projects may not come to fruition. Don’t allow your competitor to steal an existing customer from under your nose. Dust off your old CRM notes and take a hard look at the right installed base data platform.
The path to your organization’s future may lie with a past customer.