Tending Your Client Garden
By Colleen Francis
A business is like a garden: it needs consistent attention if it’s going to grow. And if you want your business to thrive, your clients need to be nurtured.
Have you ever wondered why a relationship with a client who loved buying your product or service falls through the cracks? Do you want to learn how to bring an old client back into the fold, or breathe new life into an existing business relationship? The solution to re-establishing those valuable connections is a lot simpler than most people realize.
The first step is to understand the root of the problem, or what caused the disconnect. Without identifying the problem, we can’t implement a solution. I have found the problem is usually one of the following three things:
- You dropped the ball. Maybe you got busy and forgot to document their database or return the call. When you finally call or email the client a few months later, they’ve already made a decision with another company. They’re thinking, “What the hell happened to you?”
- You lost the ball. Sometimes it’s a customer service issue that we either know or don’t know about.
- You weren’t on the ball. The client may have perceived indifference to their needs. Maybe you took them for granted because you saw those regular orders coming in and thought you had a customer for life. You forgot to pay attention to them and the competition moved in.
All three reasons share one common result: you fell out of their “top of mind” position. I know I’ve done that in my own buying life. Even if I’ve been loyal to a brand for a long time, if they’re not “top of mind” and I get a call from someone else, I might just engage because they hit me at the right time.
As sellers, losing a client is painful even if we don’t recognize it right away. Studies have shown that capturing the attention of a new customer costs up to 15 times more than maintaining the attention of a current customer.
Losing a customer hurts you in four significant ways:
- Loss of your own commissions and revenue stream.
- Loss of your reputation. When clients go elsewhere, they often share their bad experience with others.
- Loss of loyalty. When a client starts doing business with a new company and they’re excited about it, they tend to talk positively about it
- Loss of the most important tool in your sales kit: their referrals, testimonials, and their network. It’s an entire lead source cut off. And although it might be a slow process, if you keep losing customers, eventually your pipeline will dry up because it just takes so long to backfill all of those leads.
So once you’ve determined your problem, how do you go about repairing the relationship with a client who has dropped out? What is the first step to re-engage?
- Be proactive. Go through your database and make an honest assessment about which clients have disappeared and make a list of those people.
- Be brave. DO NOT be afraid to reach out to them. Whether it’s been 6 months, 6 years, or 6 days, picking up the phone and opening up a dialogue is key to finding out why this person might have fallen off the map.
- Be direct. Hit the problem straight on. If you know there might have been a customer service issue, don’t be afraid to address it directly.
I believe the key is balance. As salespeople, we need to maintain a balance between the really profitable business that is generated from referrals and repeat business, and our network to counterbalance the longer process of attracting and retaining brand new clients.
Lastly, what are the best ways to keep maintain your renewed relationships, nurture the existing ones, and promote new business?
- Be present. Sometimes the easiest way to increase business is to just show up!
- Be personal. Don’t send the same amount of information in the same old ways. Studies have shown that people become desensitized to repetition, and may even perceive it as increasingly impersonal.
- Be valuable. Is price the only thing that differentiates you from your competitor? Offer your clients extraordinary value. Provide them with ways to help their business grow, and they will happily pay your asking price. Are there experts that you can provide them access to? Is there research, information, or training you can offer that would complement their business and help them grow?
If you nurture your clients with consistent attention and provide them with extraordinary value, not only will you maintain a high retention rate—your business will continue to flourish and grow.
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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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