Let me tell you something I see quite often.
Salespeople focus on the hunt — and forget about the nurture. We’re trained as salespeople to always look for the next great deal.
So what? There are a couple of problems with this approach, especially in a tighter economy like the one we are in right now. When you are so busy trying to win the next client, you are most likely missing out on additional business in your own backyard. You also run the risk that the client will vanish before you even notice them shopping.
Cultivating relationships with your current clients matters for the following reasons:
- It enhances the bond between you and your client
- It presents opportunities for increased business
- It is a cost effective marketing strategy
1. Enhancing the bond
Your current clients want to know that you want to do business with them. They want to know that they actually matter to you. If you aren’t keeping in contact with them you are sending the opposite message.
When you contact your clients and just ask how things are going you not only let them know that you care but you can find out valuable information. You need to know what’s going on with your clients so you can be prepared. What if they are in trouble or laying off staff? What if they need something now that they didn’t need before? Something that you could help them with – either directly or indirectly.
This enhanced relationship can prevent your current clients from shopping your product or service, or from entertaining proposals from your competitors. You don’t want to find out that you’ve lost a client because you weren’t developing your relationship with them.
The way that you create a situation where they are reaching out to you is when you have been doing it first and often. Nurturing that relationship has long term results.
2. It presents opportunities for increased business
Your current clients are a great target market; you’ve already proven yourself to them, the sales cycle is shorter, the prospecting is minimal. When you know what’s going on you know what they need; you are involved on a consistent basis. Have you ever had a client that bought one thing from you and something else from someone else, even though it was something you could have provided?
That’s because you weren’t in front of them enough to let them know all of the things you do. And believe me when I tell you that even though you may have told them at the beginning, they weren’t hearing it. Clients hear what they need and want to hear at the time. If you tell them anything else, they usually don’t absorb the information. It’s up to you to maintain a relationship with them so YOU will find out what’s going on with them. When you know about their needs you can respond appropriately.
3. It is a cost effective marketing strategy
Think about it – how much could it possibly cost to communicate with your current clients? If you have a system and plug the clients into your daily routine you’ll find that it is easy to do and doesn’t cost anything. You see, they are already aware of you; they’ll take your call or schedule that meeting.
In an article from August 5, 2009 on REJournals.com, Susan Bergdoll discusses this very topic in the real estate world. She says, “. . . strengthening and maintaining relationships with existing customers, rather than pursuing new clients, is a cost-effective strategy during a difficult business environment. Current and previous customers are your most valuable asset because they already know, like and trust your business.” And this is in Real Estate! Imagine how valuable this method can be in your industry.
You can see the value of paying attention to your current clients. It is low or no cost, it helps buffer you from losing them as a client, and it is a great way to grow your business with them. Having a good, consistent relationship with your current clients can also create a world where they are referring you to their contact base. They’ll do this when you are top of mind; you will be top of mind when you are actively nurturing the relationships. Now isn’t it worth the small time and effort?
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About the Author: Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Sales Experts Panel at Top Sales Experts.
Letting your current clients know you care and are thinking about them is huge. That alone will keep you afloat because you’ll maintain your current clients. The added business you’ll acquire because your clients are satisfied is all gravy.
Nurturing is all the rage these days. I’ve been in the space for a while and watched it go from the occasional mention to entire books dedicated to it. Brian Carroll is one of the more famous ones. http://www.startwithalead.com
I agree with you Diane. These are great reminders. We still need to keep hunting or farming, depending on the metaphor you live in. Farming encourages nurture, of course, but it still demands planting seeds and not only tending the current crop. Hunters have a harder time nurturing and the metaphor itself doesn’t really allow it. Hard to nurture what you kill.
Again, though, I appreciate the reminders. We cannot take relationships for granted, in business or in life. Nurture is key.
Great advice, cultivating a relationship between your clients is important and letting them know that you have an open line of communication and that you are willing to listen to their concerns and take action.
When it comes to marketing and sales, always ask yourself the following questions “Are the customers being helped?” and “Has the Check Cleared?” Value and Relationship comes first in every transaction, and even after the transaction, always maintain the relationship, ,the ideal customer service relationship can persuade the customer into always coming back for more, Think of your Brand as a Magnet.
This is definitely the time to show your loyal customers that they matter. Other businesses are scouring for new customers by offering discounts and special pricing. Keeping your current customers happy and feeling important will keep them from being attracted by these other businesses.
I like your ideas. But how can one who only helps their client with one major purchase-like a franchise business, do it?
The Franchise King
As an purchaser I often saw this “hunting” behavior by sales people. The thing is that the supplier should think about how much it cost to let an old customer go and how much energy, time and money it take to get a new customer.
Thanks for the great responses. I felt compelled to write the article after hearing so many small business owners talk about losing clients. When asked how they’ve been keeping in touch with them I get the blank stare!
And yes we all should remember that it costs much more to acquire a new client than it does to keep the old.
Joel, your question is a good one. I think in your case following up with them after their major decision to find out how they are doing is key to obtaining referral business. With all of the people you know you are also in a position to provide your clients with resources they may need. If you were keeping in touch with these folks and finding out what was going on with them, you could be offering to connect them to resources. This makes you uber-valuable to them. They’ll remember it and while they most likely will not be buying another franchise in the near future, they will refer you because they trust you.
This is a lesson we can all learn. What better way to help a current client than to connec them to what they need?
It’s noticeable with small business where they spend most of their resources to acquired new customer and ignore their current customer.