How to keep the new client you landed
By Jim Kendall
This column originally appeared in the August 10, 2015 Daily Herald
There’s a reason that 800-lb. elephant keeps showing up at staff parties celebrating a new client: No client relationship lasts forever.
The problem is that many of those relationships end too soon.
The question is “Why?” Why does that new client go away?
“Complacency,” says Lee Eisenstaedt. He is CEO, Value Drivers LLC, Chicago, and, if Eisenstaedt’s one-word answer is not spot on, then it must be pretty close.
“You researched the prospect,” Eisenstaedt wrote in his Value Drivers blog late last month. “You met with their top people, perhaps several times. You assembled a flashy presentation showing them all the things your firm could do.
“Then you finally won them as a client! Success! Congratulations all around.”
But not too long after, Eisenstaedt continued, “A funny thing happens: The honeymoon period ends. The client feels taken for granted, neglected, not as important as they used to be.”
From a strong start, “How did we get here?”
Eisenstaedt sees “at least three common characteristics” in businesses that, essentially, slide toward complacency after gaining new clients:
* Businesses equate winning an account with in-house acumen and natural client satisfaction. Nonetheless, “We know what our clients need” is a dangerous mindset, Eisenstaedt says.
* They think their own firm has all the answers.
* They stop asking questions.
Regardless of the type of business, the process for keeping the client relationship fresh – and telling the elephant you’re out of peanuts – “begins at the top,” Eisenstaedt says in an interview. “The leader must demonstrate that it’s necessary to treat clients like prospects.
“Too often, we focus on getting new business from new clients, but existing clients are (equally) important. We can’t ignore them. We have to remain curious about what’s happening in their businesses,” Eisenstaedt says.
Remaining curious about a client – as aware of its goals and needs today as you were at the beginning – is basic.
What that suggests is regular contact, Eisenstaedt says, even if no selling is involved: Maybe lunch, perhaps sharing an article that relates to the client’s processes.
“The opportunity is there to ask, ‘What’s going on in your business? What do you need?’” Eisenstaedt emphasizes.
In fact, those and similar questions are a route to important topics to broach – your opportunity to uncover possibly essential information you won’t know about unless you ask.
Change does happen. Consider the types of change that can impact your client – and think about ways you might be able to help:
* Technology, Eisenstaedt says, might render a client’s primary product obsolete.
* Regulatory changes could have much the same impact.
* New competitors may be gathering on the horizon.
* Key employees, perhaps your best contacts, may leave.
If you’re on top of your game, change could bring what Eisenstaedt describes as “win-win-win,” a situation where you discover your client needs support that a different client can provide.