Your best customer ISN’T your best customer

by Andy Bounds on October 22, 2013 · 1 comment

business team standing

I have a question for you:

Who is your best customer?

Is it the company who:

  • Pays you the most? (best for income)
  • Has the biggest name? (best for marketing and for making you feel proud)
  • Teaches you the most? (best for your development)
  • You like the most? (best for enjoyment)

You could make an argument being any of these.  But, I think it’s someone else.  Let me explain…

When you think about it, there is both a good and a bad element to having a ‘best’ customer.  The good is … well, they’re the best.  The bad: by definition, there’s only one of them.

Instead, a better ‘customer’ is someone who causes many people to buy from you.  After all, I’d rather know Person A who got me business with companies B, C and D who each paid me £10 (total £30), than Biggest Customer E who “just” paid me £15.

And once I knew that Person A was – in effect – my biggest customer, I’d pay her the right level of attention.  Certainly more than I paid Biggest Customer E.

Finding your best customer

Get a blank piece of paper and turn it so it’s landscape

  • Write your 10-15 biggest customers across the bottom of the page (Row 1)
  • Identify where you got each customer from – direct mail, recommendation  from your friend Alan, etc. – and write that source above each customer (Row 2)
  • You now do two things with Row 2:
    • Group all those customers together that came from the same source.  So, if three of the 10-15 came from Alan, you’d group them together as one ‘Alan set’
    • If any of row 2 is the original source (by that,  I mean the first action you took, to get this customer), circle it to show that you’ve found the source. For example, if you’d written ‘Direct Mail’ in row 2, that was the first thing you did, so you’d circle this
  • For all the uncircled entries in Row 2, identify the source of each of them. Write these above, so they become Row 3.  For example, you might know Alan from BNI, so you’d write “BNI” above his name
  • Again do the same two actions with Row 3 as you did for Row 2: (1) group similar sources, and (2) circle those that are the originals. This might now give you:
    • BNI – Alan’s 3, Beryl’s 3 and Cuthbert’s 2 = 8 in total
    • Networking – Chamber of Commerce = 3
    • Direct mail = 2
    • Cold calling = 2
  • Keep going (rows 4, 5, 6…) until you’ve found each customer’s original source.  This might take a while.  For example, I recently started working with Microsoft.  That was through an introduction from Fujitsu, who I know because of a referral from a lady called Sarah.  I met Sarah through a guy called Tony, who was introduced to me through someone called Humphrey.  And where did I meet Humphrey?  Yes, BNI

When you’ve done this, see which person(s) has been the most prolific original source. In my example above, it was – by a mile – BNI. Eight out of fifteen – that’s over half – had their origins there.

Yours might be BNI too (mine is). It might be something/one else.  But, whoever it is, they are your most important customer. And, once you know that, you treat them accordingly…

Get the basics right – see them regularly, arrive on time, always prepare, look the part, be nice…

And also go the extra mile for them. Work hard to bring them extra value that they couldn’t reasonably have expected from you

And it’s that simple.  The more you give to your “best customer”, the more you gain from them.   I believe you’ve heard the words “givers gain” before?!

Best of all? This technique doesn’t take long.

And it’s powerful in all walks of life…

For example, I remember when I was studying for my O-levels (that’s how old I am). My dad – who had a very high profile job – said to me “nobody cares now that I once got nine O-levels. But I wouldn’t have this job if I hadn’t once passed them.  Now go and do some work” A pretty compelling argument (and one I’ve already used on my kids, and they’ll no doubt use on theirs one day…)

And, it’s the same with you and me.  Nobody at Microsoft cares that I once had a 121 with a BNI member called Humphrey Claxton.  But I wouldn’t be working with them now if I hadn’t once met with him.

So who could (should) you spend more time with today?

And, if it’s BNI, what new things can you bring to your chapter, to impress them more than you ever have done before? Everyone will be grateful you did. Especially you.

Andy Bounds is an expert at helping businesses sell and communicate better.  His books The Snowball Effect and The Jelly Effect are international best-sellers.  You can contact him on   To receive Andy’s tips on how to communicate more effectively go to


Andy Bounds
Andy Bounds has helped his customers win over £8billion of new business. He was voted Britain’s Sales Trainer of the Year. His book The Jelly Effect (Capstone) is an international best-seller. To receive his weekly tips on improving sales and communication, visit

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Claire October 23, 2013 at 11:09

Excellent insight in the way to look at this. Ultimately, any customer who can act as a gateway customer to more business is more valuable than one who makes just the one BIG order.


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