Using a milk run to win that difficult client


Sounds interesting, using a milk run to overcome resistance to buying. Well technically, we should run a milk run method to overcome resistance.

This is a method I was introduced to many years ago, and it works a treat with many difficult clients, or past clients who we have lost as a customer due to poor service or some other major reason.

Consider the pattern of a milk run.  For those old enough to remember the milkman delivering the daily bottle of milk, you will recall the basic structure.

Every morning at a designated time the milkman would deliver our fresh milk.  We could rely upon it happening, we trusted that he would turn up and he did, and it was part of our day, although not a critical one, it happened and we could always rely upon it.

Now what relevance does that have for us in sales?

Years ago, when I took over a client portfolio, I inherited an abnormally high percentage of clients who refused to advertise with me, for a variety of reasons.  They had all been burnt before, did not trust the organisation I worked for and would not allow us inside their door.

I was told about the Milk Run method.  Simply put, at a designated time, on a set day each week I walked in their front door and delivered a newspaper to them.  EG: 09:30 every Tuesday morning.

It was important to pick a very distinctive time, on the hour or half hour, and set a day that you felt would enable you to stop of 30 seconds only to drop off the paper.

I made sure I carried nothing in my hands except the paper, and nothing visible in my pockets, NO pens, etc.  I was there only to deliver, NOT to sell.

I wondered in, greeted the client, said I was there to drop off a free copy of the paper for their lunch room, I know you have most likely read it already, but here’s a copy for your staff. And then immediately leave.

Same time next week, same day, same message, drop off and go.

Exactly the same the following week.  Not trying to sell a thing.  Not trying to engage in conversation, as that could lead to a sales pitch.

This went on for a total of nine weeks.  Exactly the same.  If the client ever attempted to engage me in conversation before the end of the ninth week I would talk to them, if they asked me about advertising I would give them the information, however if they had not asked me about my paper before the tenth week,  I would on the tenth week turn up at 3.30pm on the Monday.

Watching carefully for any reaction from the client.  Did they look at the clock, or their watch to
check the time, did they look puzzled as to why on a Monday?  Or they might even ask you why you have turned up today and not tomorrow.

The very moment they show any reaction to you changing the situation and visitation day and time, you immediately know you have become part of their day, their week, and like the milkman you are part of their routine and not you can sell to them, as you have proven to be a dependable as their milkman.

This approach to overcoming initial objections of a difficult client has proved to be a winner for me. For many of the following reasons:

  1. You show commitment to the client that proves to them you want their business.  They are important to you.
  2. This is a personal approach from you, and seen that way by the potential customer, not a company commitment to them, but a measure of your personal commitment to them.
  3. This potential client will see you more frequently over a prolonged period of time than they will see the company / account manager who they currently deal with.  So even though you do not have their business, you are servicing their account.
  4. You get an opportunity to build a good knowledge of the business with small snapshots over a 10 week period. Stock holdings, brands, customer levels, etc.  All of which is important in the critical relationship building phase of your business association.
  5. Many times the client will ask you a question first, usually around 6-8 week period, “What do you think about this?”  A good buying / communication sign, as this shows a level of trust in you and a willingness to   embrace your products and services.


So try the milk run method. Modify it to suit your business.

Let me know how it works for you.
For more information contact Peter McCullagh 0478 413627


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