Our revenues have doubled two years in a row, we're very profitable, and I have nothing else to attribute it to! Lenann is priceless!.. Philip N. Spotts, CPCU, AIC, ARM
Chairman and CEO – The Mission Group
 

Articles written by Lenann McGookey Gardner are available for print and online publication. To request usage permission, contact 505.828.1788 or email Lenann@YouCanSell.com


Your Clients Aren't as Loyal as They Used To Be - What To Do?

Loyalty.

It's a great idea — clients who appreciate you for what you do, and who wouldn't think of retaining someone else to do that type of work for them.

It's kind of a quaint notion.

Loyalty's mostly dead.

Let's check this out: are you loyal? Think of the people who provide services to you; do you continue to patronize them, without even thinking about it? Or do you "shop around"?

We've become a world that shops. We're always looking — for a better deal, a lower price, some miracle that will allow us to get acceptably good services for — much less. We may not seek out other bidders, but when an amazing offer comes our way, it's hard to ignore!

And sometimes, it seems, we find great deals. Really, truly, lower price tags on services we need, so we jump. Before you know it, we're doing business with that low-cost supplier. But too often, they're low cost because they priced their services in a way that maximized their allure, and never was profitable for them in the first place.

They're counting on our being less vigilant once the relationship is established; our being too busy to continue to monitor the investment we're making in their services. They're counting on our not wanting to incur the pain of making a switch!

In a world in which loyalty isn't the norm, where our best and most valued clients are often seeking competitive quotes just "to keep us honest", what can we do to grow our firms with profitable, desirable client relationships that endure?

Have a Plan for Sustaining Relationships

"Out of sight, out of mind" your grandmother probably said, and she was right. If your clients aren't seeing you, they're probably not thinking about you — but they are thinking about the people who've called them today, proffering a better deal for the services you currently provide.

Do you have a system for getting in touch with your clients, on a regular basis, just to stay in the loop? You should! A minimum of one contact per quarter is essential, more if there are legitimate reasons for you to call. If nothing else, send an article likely to be of interest to them, and put a personal note on it, saying that you're thinking of them, and would be happy to discuss the subject of the article, their situation, or overall progress with them sometime soon. Say you'll call them next week to set up a time for that chat, if they feel it's appropriate.

Newsletters aren't bad, and can accomplish some of the same thing — they're much better if you include a personal note. (Could be as simple as "Jim, thought you might benefit from the tax article on page 3. Should we discuss?")

Stay Aware of Your Value, and Make Sure Your Clients Do, Too

My business is providing sales keynotes, sales training, sales coaching, so it's fairly simple to compare my clients' sales before working with me to their sales after doing so. I'm also big on calculating return-on-investment: that's the increase in profits, not sales, net of the expense of paying me, over a reasonable period of time (I often use 120 days, or a year, depending on the length of their sell cycle.)

Your value may be harder to calculate, but you should work hard to quantify something. What's their savings — if not in money, then in time, even just reduced hassle, as a result of their decision to work with you?

Share the Story

A case study is the story of a client's experience with you, written out in narrative form. There are companies that can help you do these — one such business is www.Compelling-Cases.com — or you can write them up yourself. But whenever you've made a significant difference for a client, writing up the story can be a worthwhile exercise. Explain to your client that you do this as a matter of course — you keep the case studies, like client testimonials, for the benefit of others who are considering working with you, so they can understand the kinds of results you've been able to help organizations achieve. When your clients read a case study of their own success, there's an ego boost there, and that contributes to that elusive loyalty we all seek.

Earn the Business

It's naïve to expect that clients, no matter how satisfied, are likely to be loyal, long-term, to any supplier of services. Just as is the case with most of us, clients are forever alert to the possibility that they may be overspending — and, on top of that, there's an appeal to anything that's fresh and new! But it's easier to respond to the solicitation of someone new — someone who says he can do the job and do it for less — when the relationship with the existing supplier has been allowed to deteriorate. Set aside time every single week to communicate with at least a few of your clients; establish a schedule so such contacts are made regularly and always act on any requests you uncover. It's true that it's much easier to generate Dollar #2 or Euro #2 in business from an established client than it is to get a new client to spend Dollar #1 or Euro #1... but nurturing relationships is necessary for most spending to occur, and, in a busy world, the only way such nurturing is likely to happen is if you schedule it and make it happen!

About the Author:
Lenann Gardner is an internationally known sales consultant and author of Got Sales? The Complete Guide to Today's Proven Methods for Selling Services. A Harvard MBA, Lenann was the number one sales representative worldwide at a unit of Xerox Corporation, and achieved unprecedented results as a marketing executive at Mattel and Blue Cross Blue Shield. She coaches sellers of professional services worldwide, and is a winner of the American Marketing Association's Professional Sales "Marketer of the Year" award. For more information, please contact Lenann at Lenann@YouCanSell.com or at 505.828.1788.