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Hold on to Your Golden Goose!

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Client Retention: The key to long term success and profitability

Golden GooseWork is booming right now. Particularly so in the single and multi-family sectors. This writer is pretty long in the tooth and remembers how cyclic our industry is. Boom today could be bust in just a few months. We don’t predict that happening; we just know that too many of us don’t keep in mind how important client retention is. Another trap some members are fighting is their dearth of available time leading to putting out whatever fire is most expedient at the time. Sooner or later, that kind of management will bite you. Staff appropriately or risk eventually losing that backlog.

With all the studies out there on the cost of finding a new customer, you would think that the relatively low cost of retaining a client would be a no-brainer. Oh, would it not be so! Today, we will spend a few moments pondering the obvious and not so obvious. Read along with me.

 

Here are some questions and answers everyone should ask themselves to gauge your company’s present attitude towards client retention:

  • Have you ever sat down and determined what the value of retaining a present customer or the cost of recapturing a former client is? While every situation is different, I can’t think of a single business where the cost of retention or recapture is not several orders of magnitude less than acquiring a new client.
  • Does your firm have a comprehensive program to bolster your relationships with present clients? I have found it difficult to ask the typical salesperson to wear two hats. Either they are good at prospecting for new business or are good at client retention, but normally not both. This is as much a problem of management as the salesperson. Management often puts more emphasis on capturing new clients than holding onto old ones they already have.
  • Do you have a plan for bringing back former clients into the fold? Separate from the issue of why you lost a client, the responsibility for going back to former clients to recapture their interest if often simply not assigned to anyone. This is not just an oversight on someone’s part. It goes with the mentality, “I’d rather have a new customer than fight to get an old one back.” Many times client recapture just isn’t compatible with your salespersons personality, or compensation plan, or both.
  • Have you identified how your clients perceive your company, its products? Make it a point to ask the hard questions that are inevitable when judging your company. Ask these questions yourself before your clients, who most assuredly will!
  • Do you know what clients expect from companies in your line of work? Expectations are the heart and soul of selling and retention. If you promised the moon, you had better deliver it. It is a kind of verbal suicide to promise more than you can reasonably deliver. However, every day I hear salespeople say the impossible. Talk about setting your company up for failure! Hint: Collect information from your competitors on what they promise their clients vs. what they actually deliver.
  • Do you follow up with personnel changes within your clients? Another one that sounds like an obvious no-brainer. Never forget that people sell people, not companies. If there is a change in the personnel lineup, it is entirely possible that you and your company are already on the road to outplacement, but just don’t know it yet. Once again, never assume that everything is rocking along smoothly. Test the water from time to time.
  • Do your clients know what you have done for them lately? “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is not always true in a fiscally conservative environment. Sometimes you will lose the account because everything is going too smoothly. People will wonder why they are paying you all that money! Remind them what their pain used to be like before they met you and your company!
  • How would a competitor view your account relationship? Probably with envy! The grass is always greener in the other guy’s account. Poachers are out there. While you are sharpshooting a new account in deference to servicing an old one, guess what?- your competitor is smoozing away your safe, staid and ignored account. Watch your back!
  • Do you really know why you lose accounts? Like feedback in a microphone, try not to talk too much to people within your own organization as to why you lose accounts. Only the customer can tell you this. You might start believing your own rhetoric and miss the real reasons you lose clients.
  • Does your company commit to client retention? Senior management must commit to the process of client retention. Not a sometimes endeavor, but an ongoing commitment to getting it right. From top management to the troops in the trenches, retaining clients must be made everyone’s business. Good Selling!
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