It's time to thank your clients

I recently terminated relationships with some suppliers who I have used for quite a while because I felt they took my business for granted! When I let them go, some offended me by offering to reduce their fees to salvage the business, but others went quietly, almost as if they expected it. When I surveyed other small businesses, I found the same scenario; suppliers demonstrating a lack of appreciation for their clients.

As we progress in the first quarter of 2020, I decided to do my annual review of our current client base to develop a better understanding the people who utilized my professional development services. I'm proud of the fact that our typical client stays with us for an average of 5 years!

I believe I'm good at selling my training services to those who benefit from them, however, my selling skills only brought clients in the door. They did not guarantee that clients stayed! When I probed the reason that they remained with us, the resounding response was that they felt appreciated by everyone in my organization. It's time to ask yourself the hard question, "Do my clients feel as valued after the sales as they did when I was pursuing them."

Client appreciation may well have a different meaning to anyone you ask. To some it might mean gifts at holidays or on special occasions. To others it is attached to a simple "thank you" that is mailed in a card, sent in an email or voiced at a meeting.

To me, client appreciation means asking my clients five simple questions, twice a year. These questions are imbedded in the reason why my clients continue to utilize the services of my company and aren't swayed by my numerous competitors. I incorporate these questions in a meeting I refer to as a CESAR meeting. CESAR is an acronym that stands for Chief Executive Semi Annual Review. The meeting includes all the decision-makers and anyone that my services have touched in each of my client's organizations.

Here are the five "magical" questions:

1. Why did you choose to business with me? You will learn a lot from this simple question. If your clients can't remember why they chose to work with you, how do you think they will respond when a competitor asks them the same question?

2. How am I doing on a scale of 1-10? Too many salespeople feel that if they are not hearing complaints and the checks are still coming in that everything is fine. This is a reality check!

3. What else should I be doing for you to better service you? "Better service you" may well mean selling them additional products or services to meet other hidden needs as well as delivering improved levels of services.

4. Why would you fire me? Sorry for the shocker, I should have warned you that question was coming as it's quite scary! I know it's a very difficult question to ask; however, a salesperson needs the answer so they don't inadvertently do the very thing that would get them fired. Many salespeople are afraid to ask that question as they believe they will put that thought is their clients head. If your relationship is so weak that the question could topple it… there are far bigger issues at hand.

5. Who else do you know that may have issues like the ones I am helping you with? If your client is willing to give a referral and a testimonial, the closing rate rises to 75-90%! This type of referral is a form of client appreciation as they allow your client to feel good about being the center of influence for other businesses.

The current economic conditions yield incredible competition for your products and services so make sure you spend at least 40% of time nurturing your existing clients as they are your competitor's best new source of business. Go conquer your worlds.

• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. Text "salestip" to 35893 to receive Bill's biweekly newsletter.

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