In a turbulent economy, it is just as important, perhaps more so, to keep current customers close, as it is to fill the pipeline with new customers. The loss of a current customer translates into an immediate reduction of current and future revenue, and the need to invest in acquiring a replacement customer of equal or greater value. Better to keep your customers close. Here are a few tips:
Don’t push your agenda, align with your customer’s agenda.
Employ thought leadership to deliver value beyond a product or service.
Reduce noise, increase the value of each communication (differentiate yourself in the channel).
Connect with your customer in the channel they use (go to them, don’t make them come to you).
Address top-of-mind issues quickly so you can move to a real value-of-the-relationship conversation.
Don’t be afraid to challenge your customers assumptions. If they are focused on cost-cutting, hear that, acknowledge it, and help them, but also help them envision a positive future. Make sure they know how you can help them grow, shift or adapt so they can be successful in the future.
Know the market, not just the customer. Help the customer put their issues in context.
Don’t assume that what a customer told you in one meeting will hold into the next, regardless of the time between meetings. Things happen quickly, be ready to adjust. Try your best to create contingencies and offers of value in anticipation of customer needs.
Understand the internal influence model. Support your direct customer, but get to know the influence model around them so you can quickly connect with new leaders if management changes occur.
Keep listening. Customers are great teachers.
Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.