By Bill Hellkamp

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Most surveys agree that it costs 5 to 7 times as much to get a new client as it does to maintain a positive client relationship. Yet many sales professionals get themselves so concentrated on new business growth that they inadvertently allow good clients to find new suppliers. As you can see by the attached graph, 68% of customers who leave their current supplier for another do so because they feel uncared for. None of us want to be taken for granted, and when a client feels this is happening, they look for someone who will make them feel important and valuable. Here are some ways that you can strengthen those client relationships to better keep the business you have and build it for the future.
Build Friendships – Even with all of the new technology at our disposal and the ability to source products globally, we still find that people buy from people they like. Clients want to be more than a wallet and sales relationship. Great sales people develop deep personal relationships with their best clients. They know their spouse’s name and profession, who their children are and where they are in school or life and their client’s hobbies and interests. Further, they act on this information with cards, phone calls and congratulations that communicate to the client that this relationship is important and long lasting. Warning: Build these friendships with sincerity and remember that you must still provide quality products and services at a fair price.
Respect Their Time – If you have been able to build good relationships with your clients, they are more likely to give you an appointment when you ask. To honor this confidence, you need to make sure that you respect the time they are giving you. It is OK (and in some regions necessary)to have a chat about the family and the hobbies, but don’t spend too much time in that area. You must get down to business. Also, it is important to have a reason for meeting with them. What are you bringing to the conversation? It could be a new product or service, special sales pricing or a price increase or it could be a chance to evaluate the quality and suitability of the purchases that have already been made. Whatever it is, make sure that you only meet when you have something important to discuss. Finally, don’t overstay your welcome. If you set the appointment for 30 minutes, then be ready to leave prior to that. If the discussion is going well, ask for a short extension. It is always best to leave with them wanting a little more of you rather than a little less!
Reward Their Trust – I have been a member of my health club since 1996 (I know because it says so on my card). That’s a long time with any organization. And do you know how they reward my trust? That’s right, they send me notices of rate increases – on a pretty regular basis! Seldom does anyone remember my name, even though I try to remember theirs and I can’t remember ever getting a “thank you” for all of those years of membership. How do you say “thank you” to your clients? What special, memorable action or item have you presented to them for their loyalty of the past ten or twenty years? Customers are the source of all of our business success, yet we treat them with indifference or complacency. So stop right now and write down two great customers that deserve a special reward and commit to doing something exceptional for them this week! They deserve it and you will reinforce that great relationship.
Develop Partnerships – We are not tasked with selling products and services but in selling solutions to the client’s most important problems. This means that the best salespeople understand that they need to become involved in the client’s business at every level. Inevitably the customer will call us and ask for our help in solving a problem. But the best salesperson understands the connection between their product (or service) so well that they can anticipate issues that might be about to arise and contact the client first. In addition they will look for opportunities to step in and be of assistance, situations such as a new product launches, or a customer education seminar. Another way to cement your relationship with a key client is to ask them to evaluate new products prior to their introduction. Not only will the client feel important and trusted, but your company will gain key information from real users.

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