Bird in Hand
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – so goes the old proverb.
What holds true in life is also relevant for business. Your most loyal customers are often your most valuable and, following the “80/20” principle, may account for the lion’s share of your sales. Companies with a high client turnover could find themselves having to work harder to maintain their position, let alone to achieve growth. Quite apart from the financial impacts, losing a client means forfeiting a potentially valuable reference source and the risk of a diminished presence in key regions or markets. It makes sense then to pay special attention to servicing your existing business base.
So how do you ensure your clients stay with you?
Satisfying current client needs and maintaining their trust should be a straightforward process, since you will have acquired an inside view of their values and priorities and they have first-hand experience of your service and/or product delivery.
However, this is just the start of the process. Constant vigilance is required, underpinned by regular reviews. Allow complacency to set in and make assumptions about your clients’ needs or fail to keep pace with their changing requirements and you stand the risk of losing them – possibly without any prior warning. Losing ground is easy, regaining it can be harder: in the words of Mr Darcy ‘My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.’
In reality, managing client relationships is a subtle yet complex process. Fundamentally, it is critical to take the time to develop an in-depth understanding of the client’s organisational aims and the way they prefer to work. Equally important is to recognise that corporate purchasers are also individuals with their own frames of reference and perceptions of risk – both of which come into play in making ‘business’ judgements. Essentially people buy from people, which means getting to know your contacts and responding to their individual needs and what they regard as important.
Deciphering all these needs and responding to them appropriately is a skill in itself. Balancing particular requirements cost-effectively within a commercially-sound business framework can be extremely challenging.
Ultimately, the pay-off is more than worth it. A reputation for consistency and responsiveness is something you can literally bank on - and make the most of to stay ahead of the competition.