It’s a statistic that’s commonly repeated in sales departments: it costs five times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one. That’s why it’s important to not just make sales, but to acquire lifelong customers. Sales representatives should be thinking about how to turn a sale into a customer for life from the very first conversation with a prospect. There are three simple, proven actions that will help your company retain happy customers at higher rates.
Action #1: Establish relationships that are not only deep, but also wide
Many sales representatives establish strong relationships with their main contacts at each of your customers, but oftentimes, that’s not enough. Build relationships with senior managers across multiple departments at your client to ensure the security of your relationship with them far into the future.
Use an organizational chart to understand the players within the company and commit to building those relationships. The best defense you have for protecting an ongoing relationship with any customer is to build a wall consisting of a number of relationships within the company. Concentrate on being a trusted resource, not just a vendor. If done right, your customer will stop seeing you as a supplier and start seeing you as an insider or a partner.
A cautionary tale came from a client I consulted with a number of years ago. The client resisted the idea of building relationships across their customer’s organization because the executive vice president of HR was a huge advocate for them, and she signed all the checks and was the key decision-maker at the organization.
Two months later, the EVP was unceremonious marched out of the building after an expense scandal. My client’s key ally was gone, and worse than that, the new EVP wanted to separate himself from anything that the old one had in the works, including ending most of her vendor relationships. Despite a situation that was out of its control, my client lost the business. Ensuring you have multiple points of contact and allies within your customer can help you avoid a similar situation.
Action #2: Have a genuine interest in ensuring your client’s success
We hear it all the time in sales: “I’d walk away from the customer if I wasn’t selling them a product or service that wouldn’t solve a problem they have.” But in working with dozens of sales organizations, I don’t always see that philosophy genuinely in action.
In order to develop a customer for life, you have to honestly believe that what you’re providing is helping them improve their business or personal life. This means that it’s important to be there in between sales opportunities. Offer them advice or offer them introductions to other people when you’re not the right resource. Develop a long-term relationship with the client by focusing on their overall well-being and success, and they’ll view you not only as a vendor or service provider, but as a trusted counsel and part of their business.
Action #3: Commit to Lifelong Customers at All Levels of Management
The development of a loyal customer for life requires more than just the involvement of your sales staff, it requires a commitment from your CEO, your sales leadership, customer service, development, and every other department within your organization. It’s important to ensure that each member of your company realizes that they have a role to play in serving the customer, and that it’s their priority to ensure the customer has a positive experience and stays with your company.
I once discussed the idea of commissions for staff based on repeat business with a hotel vice president of sales, and discovered it was something he did not do at his company. To me, that sends the message to his team that they should ignore existing customers, as they were only being rewarded for new business. It’s essential to commit to rewarding your staff for repeat business and to create compensation plans around your goals to retain clients, not just in sales, but also across the organization.
A commitment to customer loyalty and retention will help your company cut down on customer acquisition costs while improving your bottom line. Ensure that your employees understand the importance of lifelong customers, create sales policies that help you develop deep and lasting relationships within the organization, and reflect the customer retention priority in your policies across departments at your company.