Landing a new account is just the beginning. Keeping that business customer taken care of and satisfied is the key to building a solid relationship. But neither is easy and is often complex and time consuming. If you ever find yourself wondering why your close rate for new business is falling short of your goals or why a client just up and left when you thought everything was fine, ask yourself:
1.) Am I making this about the client or about me? Some companies have a “sales pitch” that they never quite move beyond. Everything is about their products and services and they continually push their own agenda instead of considering what the client actually wants and needs.
A good general rule is to forget about the tangible, at least at first. Think about the endgame. What does the client need to achieve? Now, think about the process. How do you align the right resources to make that happen? Products and services are vehicles for accomplishing your client’s big-picture goals.
2.) Am I solving problems or taking orders? This self-reflective exercise goes hand-in-hand with the tip above. I make it a separate point because it’s simply shocking to me how many times I hear a client’s main reason for moving business away from a current supplier partner is: “We’re looking to our partner to be the expert in this space and educate us on what we might not know. Our current supplier doesn’t do that – there’s no consulting.”
3.) Am I too distant? Out of sight, out of mind. While you never want to pester your clients, going months without communicating is usually not a good idea either. More and more, we’re seeing a new account and existing clients request regular business reviews to discuss past projects and strategically plan for the future. This is a great path toward long-term client retention.
But it doesn’t even need to be a formal process. For some accounts, it’s enough to simply remind your contacts that you’re always looking out for their best interests.
“I saw this article and thought of you – I know you’re going through that big acquisition right now and I’m here for whatever you need.”
“Is there anything we need to review ahead of your big tradeshow in May? I can go ahead and get your repeat orders in production. We can also talk about new ideas to drive traffic to your booth if you have some time in the next couple of weeks.”
4.) Am I too pushy? On the flip side, sometimes nothing drives a client away faster than an account manager that simply won’t leave them alone. Communication should bring value to the client and you aren’t doing that if they feel like you routinely waste their time.
One of my former co-workers recommended asking the “Four Corners Questions” at the beginning of every new business relationship:
- What is your role in the company as (insert title)?
- In your role as (insert title), what specific goals are you responsible for achieving this year or next?
- What do you see as the biggest challenges or obstacles in achieving your goals?
- What is your preference of engagement when we work together (i.e. meetings, phone, email, text)?
These questions are simple, to-the-point and show a genuine interest in making the partnership about the client. The last one in particular can help establish an initial dialog without coming across as invasive. Some people really don’t like talking on the phone, and others might consider a text message too familiar. Know your audience.
5.) Am I making connections in the organization beyond my immediate contacts? It’s a tale as old as time. You have a fantastic relationship with the marketing director of your biggest client. She would never move her business away. You’ve saved her too much time, helped her out of too many jams, and come through in ways that make her see you as a business partner rather than a vendor.
Then one day she leaves the company and you realize that you don’t know anybody else. Uh oh.
A good way to avoid this scenario is by adopting the behaviors we’ve covered above. Stay in touch, communicate honestly and openly, and – when there is the opportunity for a sit-down meeting or casual lunch, ask your contact(s) to invite other people in the organization who might see value in your services.
At the end of the day, business like anything else comes down to developing strong relationships. You can never have too many of those.
Go Out There and Secure a New Account and Keep Old Ones Happy
These tips are great advice for landing a new account as well as checking in and building better relationships with your existing clientele. There is always more business to be done so nurture your client but don’t be overzealous. It’s a balancing act but one that pays off in the end.