Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Keeping Your Customers. Happy.

For any sales-driven organization, the bottom line depends exclusively on doing one thing: gaining customers. For any good sales-driven organization, success cannot stop there. You have to take it one step further. And that means keeping the customers you've fought so hard to win.

It might sound like an overly obvious statement, but I'm here to tell you that it's commonly overlooked. Especially in long-term consulting arrangements such as the ones we engage in with clients on a daily basis.

Success is a goal. A marathon worth running. It's not a quick-fix, a sprint, or anything thing else easy. We're not selling cars here...people have to stay with us month after month after month if we're going to succeed. (And if they're to succeed, as well.) I have several clients that are entering their 3rd and 4th years of continuous LinkWorth patronage and without them, we'd be nowhere. And I'm so appreciative of the lessons they've taught me over the years.

So what do you do to keep people around? Easy. Give a shit. Every time, with every client, no matter what.

It has to be a mentality. A "not-so-corporate" culture, in our case. To me, every client we get is like a little piece of gold. Something to be coddled, prized, and nurtured. Sure, not all clients can be classified the same way in regards to revenue generated or the depth to which we can build a relationship, but they all share one thing: they pay us to provide them with a service. Period.

So shouldn't they all be treated the same? If you ask me, the short answer is: absolutely.

Salespeople can become put off by their clients because of one reason or another. Happens all the time. Not just here, but in every setting. I've been there...I know...I get it. But you have to fight through that and do the right thing. For example, demanding clients become extra high-maintenance when their rankings slip. Instead of being whipped by their inquisition, put yourself in their shoes. I mean, it is their money, they have the right to freak out a little, don't they? After all, we're the experts...not them. That's why they're here...they're looking to us for answers. You can't ever forget that.

It's easier said than done, I realize. And I'm one of those guys that is in a great mood 99% of the time. I'm happy and upbeat unless I have a reason to be pissed-off, bummed out, or whatever. (I get razzed about it quite frequently by friends...but they can kiss my ass!!)

But every now and then I realize just how far a positive attitude can take you and it's during these moments of enlightenment that I want to reiterate this to my salespeople or other employees here at the 'Worth…just so I can provide some type of evidence to back up what I usually say or the way I usually act.

Today, I had one of these moments.

In the midst of rolling out a new website, the normal end-of-month hurdles to leap over, and everything else that goes on around here, I had the opportunity to speak to a disgruntled client. (Well, previously disgruntled if I don't suck.) There had been issues, communication had been less than stellar, he was confused about some things, and the "somewhat negative" aspects of his personality had been become amplified to the point that everyone here was throwing their hands up and writing him off. Everyone except me, that is.

See, I love this part of my job. Talking people off the ledge. Not selling them, necessarily, because the service we provide sells itself. This guy just needed someone to listen, be responsive in a positive way, and offer some type of remedy.


I did nothing more than inform this guy how important his business was to me and that I would do everything I could to accommodate him. I didn't promise him things that I have no intention of delivering, didn't give away the farm to keep him around, didn't make any lame excuses, and didn't bullshit him in the least. He vented, I listened. And I hope we have him around for another 13 months to match the 13 months that he's already been with us.

I believe that adversity actually helps to grow business relationships if you treat each adverse scenario as an opportunity. Every company can do at least some things well. We do LOTS of things really well. But it's not until you get yourself in a little hot-water that you can really show your clients what you're made of. And that demonstration can go a very, very long way.

Good talk, Russ...

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