There is much rhetoric around satisfaction and loyalty in sales and the difference between the two. Satisfaction is a sense of fulfilment or the pleasure obtained from needs or expectations being met. Loyalty is the giving or showing of firm and constant support.
As Shep Hyken said:
There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal client
Or, as Jeffrey Gitomer was quoted saying:
Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless
Customer loyalty allows you to weather service failures and competitive threats. Satisfaction is more of a point in time perspective and can quickly be dismissed if subsequent service doesn’t follow suit. To give some perspective – if you partner said you they were ‘satisfied’ with their relationship with you – how would you feel?
In a sales sense, both are important. You can have loyal, but dissatisfied clients – especially at a point in time such as a service failure. Of course, were you to leave them in a dissatisfied state for too long, their loyalty begins to come in to question – so acting to promptly to reinstate satisfaction is important.
Similarly, you can have satisfied but disloyal clients – such as when pricing arguments arise. You can have a client who wins a battle of price and is satisfied with what you have offered, but actually isn’t loyal. This can happen where you have clients with significant barriers to shift to new suppliers (such as contracted obligations) and can remain disloyal but satisfied with what they have. Here, the focus is around leveraging the satisfaction to drive loyalty.
As a disruptor to this situation – a sales person who wishes to form a relationship with these clients should be looking at whether their prospects are both satisfied and loyal to their incumbent suppliers. As a sales person, you are looking for clients of other suppliers who are sitting in a position of questionable loyalty or satisfaction.
Recently, I wrote about relationships where clients love their suppliers and suppliers love them back. These are very difficult relationships to displace simply for the reason that the client is both satisfied and loyal. Something significant needs to change in this relationship for you to displace it. Accordingly, you have to honour this loyalty to make head way in forming a relationship with them. It isn’t about selling in a relationship of this status; it is about learning and patience.
So what are the wider states that exist in client/supplier relationships? If you consider sentiment as an important driver to whether clients are mobile or not – you can generate a client sentiment model as follows:
In this model, the A’s are those expressed above. Those who have a mutual loyal and satisfying relationship with their suppliers. I’ve covered them previously here.
There are three other states of relationship which can help you form your sales strategy once you can identify them:
C: Mutual Disloyalty
Here you have clients who have a low feeling of loyalty to their supplier and it is reciprocated by the supplier. They want to be left alone, but want the supplier to jump when they need them. They won’t speak highly of their incumbent supplier and usually not of any suppliers at all. They usually just want the cheapest option but all the bells and whistles for it. It isn’t uncommon for them to express their disloyalty by constantly shopping their incumbent on every transaction or jumping from supplier to supplier. As is their right, they don’t feel this is an issue and it is always the suppliers fault. As a result, their supplier isn’t loyal in return and the client receives mediocre service.
Tread carefully here as you can be acquiring an issue – however don’t dismiss it immediately. Some times these pieces of coal can turn in to a diamond. Sometimes this is the result of a situation – it can be driven by a supplier who has done a significantly poor enough job that they taint the clients view of all suppliers. I won’t spend much time here as it is an area best avoided until you’ve exhausted the below. The ROI is just too poor.
B: Misplaced Loyalty
These are clients who have learn to accept average/mediocre service as good service. This is exampled by them saying things like ‘when I ring them, they answer the phone’ or ‘they always do want I ask’. This is responsive service that the client has been unfortunately conditioned to think is good, or even great, service. Asking questions like ‘how often does your supplier come out and visit you’ is a great question. Or ‘does your supplier introduce you to potential clients’. These will quickly highlight the supplier side apathy in the relationship.
There is significant uncaptured value in this relationship. A proactive sales person can quickly identify this value. As a disruptor to this relationship you should be looking to open their eyes to what they aren’t getting. Ask them their strategic goals, challenges and opportunities. Connect them with people who can help them realise and mitigate them. Advise them. Provide them with opportunities to educate themselves. Host them so they get to understand what a proactive, consultative relationship should be like.
In short, show them the love they should be getting from their supplier. It isn’t about price – it is about value and advice. About caring.
In sales – these are the most likely clients to displace as you can add the most value. Here you have clients who are loyal, but often not as satisfied as they realise they could be.
As the incumbent, you need to be careful as a disruptor who is smart and attentive, can quickly point this out to them.
B Apathetic Loyalty:
Here you challenge is the client sentiment is ‘why jump from the frying pan to the fire’. This client was probably, at one point, loyal to their supplier and it is highly likely that the supplier was/still is loyal to them. They are usually easy to pick up because they literally will say things like ‘you are all the same’ or ‘why change, you’re as bad as one another’.
The challenge here is different from the above as here you often have a client who has ‘given up’ on their supplier. The situation here is they are often dissatisfied, but loyal.
As a disruptor to this relationship the focus isn’t about questioning their loyal, it is about addressing their satisfaction. If you can satisfy them, the loyalty will follow.
Often they will have become apathetic because there is an unrealised or unexplored disconnection between what they want and what they are getting. Their supplier may be incredibly loyal and eager – but they haven’t explored what is important to the client and, hence, they aren’t being satisfied and, as I mentioned above, eventually their loyalty wanes. As the disruptor, you need to connect the dots between what they reallywant from a supplier and then deliver to this brief. Drive their satisfaction to obtain their loyalty.
Your Battleground Is The B’s
As a disruptor to an incumbent supplier relationship – your battle ground is on these last two client groups which is why they’re grouped together as a B. Sure, the A’s will and should always receive a focus – but these are long game clients. However, the most consistent results will be achieved in dealing with those with either Misplaced or Apathetic Loyalty to their incumbent. These relationship states are where the most unrealised value exists. It is the process of realising this value that generates the opportunity to create new client relationships.
Next time you are talking with your clients or prospects, remember what Ross Perot said:
Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers
This model applies to both the incumbent and disrupting sales person/business. You need to constantly explore and confirm that you client is both satisfied and loyal. This should be articulated in your CRM as it is these two sentiments that drive how you manage the relationship. Both of these sentiments are the best defence to someone usurping your position as the incumbent as but a crack in either can give them a handhold to grasp on to.