An oft-stated business axiom says it’s cheaper and more profitable to hang on to existing customers than to lure in new ones. That’s certainly true when it comes to keeping consumers satisfied, but it also applies in B2B sales relationships. Yet keeping those business-to-business customers loyal isn’t always easy. One bad experience can sour them, and eager competitors stand ready to snatch them away. The best salespeople realize they need to adapt to new market realities.
Customers’ attitudes have changed a lot since the 2008 recession, and they are more vigilant about getting the best value for their money. You can’t treat a customer as a disposable item any more. Customers care about relationships that are authentic. They want to buy from someone they consider to be trustworthy.
That means salespeople can’t just show up when a customer is ready to buy, handle the sale, and then disappear until it’s time for the next transaction. Once you have a good relationship with a customer, you don’t want to lose it. You want that customer to keep coming back, but that’s not something that’s just going to happen without you putting in the effort.
There are several steps businesses can take to instill loyalty in customers. Just a few of those include:
• Act promptly to resolve problems and conflicts. Customers become frustrated if it takes too long to get problems resolved or if they have to talk with too many people before there’s a resolution. Look for ways to adjust or streamline your process. You may be able to provide faster response times either by adding additional resources or by eliminating steps in the process.
• Understand the pressures your customers face. A little research can give you knowledge about factors causing your customers anguish. Maybe one of their competitors is about to launch a new product. Maybe a new government regulation is adding to their expenses. Perhaps dissatisfied shareholders are insisting they go in a different direction. You can establish a lot of credibility with customers if you show that you’ve done your homework and gained some knowledge of the challenges they are facing.
• Review customer loyalty and satisfaction surveys. If you’ve previously done business with a customer, and they completed a customer loyalty and satisfaction survey, you can use their responses to gauge how they perceived the experience. Even though businesses often collect such information, in many cases they fail to put it to use. And that’s a mistake—there could be a wealth of information that would help build the relationship.
Customers will find it difficult to believe you have the potential to offer something of value to them in the future if you haven’t delivered in the past. It’s critical that you make sure their experience is a good one if you want to see them return again and again.
Customer service excellence is the foundation of any successful sales relationship. Let AMA's seminars and other resources teach you how to help your company retain its customers.