As an Account Executive for a local print shop, National Lithograph I have faced many challenges, but one challenge in particular is not exclusive to my industry alone; it is a problem for anyone in sales-CUSTOMER RETENTION. Research shows you will spend 10 times as much money on finding a new customer, as you would to retain your existing ones, therefore doesn’t it make sense to put all your effort into making your existing customers happy.
In order to do so it is important to realize there are many facets to keeping a client happy such as:
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer support
- Customer loyalty
- Value of your product or service
- Confidence in your brand
Each one, a very important piece of the customer retention puzzle however I want to focus on the most important piece-the relationship you have with your customer. I feel the best way to do this is to get them to like you.
My motto is:
“I make your business, my business!”
I say this because I want my customer to know I value their business as much as I value my own, therefore I will do all I can to help their business succeed. When it comes to salesmen, people are very leery so there are a few things you can do to build a strong relationship with your client.
Trust is key to building a lasting relationship in any part of your life, so it makes sense that it is just as important in the business world. I’m not talking about legality issues or having faith in your product or service, I’m talking about trusting you as person. This does not come easy, but you can start the moment you meet your client for the first time; be punctual. Being late gives one the impression you don’t value their time, which is an immediate turnoff for many. Early on you will need to work hard to build a good rapport with your new found “friend” so here are a few other ways to build trust you can use:
- Listen to your client
- Accept responsibility, don’t pass blame
- Do what you say you will do
- Be compassionate to the needs of others
It will take a little time but when your client begins to see qualities in you that he values he will allow you into his own “circle of trust”.
Be an Advocate for their Business
This is a great way to show your client that you really do care about them, and it will be beneficial to you as well, because the bigger they are the more they will need what you can provide. When I start working with a client, I ask them for a few business cards, not so I can print them, but so I can pass them out to those I think may benefit from their business. I belong to a local chapter of BNI, Dulles Elite Network, and our director has this quote on her emails,
“The finest compliment I can receive is an introduction to friends or colleagues from an appreciative client.”
No truer words have ever been said and if you use this philosophy with your clients they will show you their gratitude by remaining loyal to you and your company.
Do more than is required
My main goal is to sell my prospect some printing; from business cards and stationery to newsletters and direct mail pieces if it requires ink on paper, I can do it. That doesn’t mean I can’t help them in other ways as well. I have a huge network of people at my disposal, so I am always on the look-out for cues on how I can use that network to help them with other needs. Perhaps he is planning a party for his daughter, I could let him know I know a magician, an event planner, and moon bounce operator and I present him with that information immediately. This act does several things, it helps my client solve a problem not related to my business, it creates an opportunity for my other clients to do some business and it shows both clients that I genuinely care for their needs. If you pay close attention these opportunities present themselves quite often, and they are your ticket to creating happy customers.
There are an array of social media sites that you and your clients are on and this is a great way to keep in touch and show them who you really are. This is much more personal so it should be used with caution. I have been known to voice my opinion in the past and this has caused trouble, so it is imperative you are always thinking, “What would my client think about this?”, because you can bet they are watching. I use social media for a variety of things such as keeping up with current events and staying in touch with friends, family and clients. I run a local page that is focused on local issues and I also run a charitable page called, Project Supply Supplies , which asks people to donate school and art supplies that are delivered to schools and organizations in need. I do these things because it makes me feel good, it helps others, and it’s good business. Our print shop donates all of its unused stock to a local schools as well. When your clients see you ‘walking the walk’ they will realize you are a decent person and that emotional bound will continue to strengthen. You could even ask them to get involved if they do or provide something that you are involved with, don’t be pushy just let them know what you’re doing and chances are they will help.
Newsletters and Blogs
Finally, if you want your clients to know a little more about you and your company then include them in your mailing list for your newsletter or blog. Being a printer, I strongly urge you to send out a monthly newsletter to your clients. Keep it fun and informal, but informative. Let them know what’s going on in your company, any events you have attended, new services or products you have, and lots of pictures. The same with a blog. Link it to your companies Facebook page and create fun and informative copy that gets your customer thinking about you. On occasion, mention your client in your newsletter or blog, maybe even write a story about them. They will surely appreciate the publicity and this too will be paid back with years and years of loyalty to you and your business.
When it comes to building strong relationships with your clients I urge you to try a few of these techniques but get inventive as well. Get to know them and what they do, not because it’s your business to but because you want to in order to help them be the best they can be. The more you do this, the more it becomes natural. If you cultivate an attitude of service, then you will begin to be seen as someone who is genuine, someone who is honorable, and someone your client will continue to want to work with for a very long time.