You see this time and time again – when you, as a client, say you’re going to leave – your supplier rolls out the customer retention strategy or team to tell you how much your business means to them and what they can do to entice you to stay. Where was this before you indicated you were leaving? And why does it take you telling them you’re leaving to motivate them to act?
Client retention isn’t a strategy to deploy when your client is at risk – it is a strategy to deploy all the time. A proactive rather than reactive strategy. It’s called customer service.
Unfortunately, however, we often see a client retention (defensive) strategy deployed when a client is ‘at risk’. Is this the right time to consider retention?
The answer is no.
Sure, if your clients are business minded, they should be continually assessing the market for the optimal solution and, yes, this will involve them talking to your competitors. If you’re scared of or intimidated by this, this is more a reflection on your fears and concerns of your ability to keep your client happy than your client being disloyal. Often, you’ll wish your clients shut their doors to your competitors yet, guaranteed, your very own business is likely to use the same strategy to benchmark their own suppliers.
If you are continually focused on ensuring your clients are receiving the best service and best solution possible – what have you got to be concerned about? Sure, your competitor may play the price lever, but if you’ve correctly demonstrated the value (rather than price) of your solution – this tactic should fall on deaf ears.
Too often we try to keep a client by telling them how great they are, how much we value their business, how much we are doing for them that they don’t see AFTER the become a flight risk. This is usually too late.
Client retention should be at the top of every sales persons mind, all the time. You are naive to assume your best clients aren’t viewed similarly by your competitors. You are naive to assume your competitors aren’t calling on them. Retention isn’t a defensive strategy. It most certainly isn’t a division of a business (if you’ve ever been passed to a ‘client retention team’, you know what I mean). It is client relationship management. Client service. Client satisfaction. Raving fans.
If you need to have a client retention strategy (or, heaven forbid, department or team) – your sales strategy is flawed. Client retention starts from the very first interaction with a client and never ends.
What should you be doing to ensure client retention?
Tell them how much they mean to your business. You do it in your personal life to your significant other, why ignore it in your professional life. Assume a competitor would love to have them, act accordingly
Meet regularly and meaningfully. Don’t just have a coffee or round of golf. Understand them – study them. Learn from them. Become an advisor, not a supplier. Become part of their team and them part of yours.
Support their business. Become their raving fan, their advocate. Refer in people who can help them get where they wish to be, or can be their clients, their suppliers.
You enter a sales relationship with a client with the aim of retaining them, so what is retention really if not just great client service?