Existing, loyal clients are the backbone of any business and need to be looked after carefully if the business is to move forward confidently and successfully with it’s head held up high. Get to know your clients well, recognise and reward their loyalty, watch for changing needs, anticipate when they will next need your help and identify ways in which you can make life simpler and more straightforward for them. Keep the back-bone of your business fit, healthy and in good shape and reap the rewards of strength and stability through repeat business and referrals. Neglect and ignore the backbone at your peril – we all know how painful this can get!
New clients are the life-blood of business and are essential for healthy growth and development – even the most loyal of existing clients move on; they move away, their needs change, their way of life changes, they get older. There has to be a robust strategy, not only for bringing in new clients through the doors or through your website, but more importantly to Nurture, Value and Grow Your Clients to ensure they stay and become the future backbone of your business.
Often we hear owners say that they have 60 or 70 new clients a month and that business should be going well, yet turnover and the order book or diary are starting to fall away. Many businesses see a steady stream of new clients coming through the door and just as many then walking back out of the door never to be seen again.
If you have been nurturing your existing clients and remembering to ask for referrals, you will already be benefitting from the easiest and most cost-effective way of bringing in new clients which is through word of mouth. Other new clients are likely to have cost you time and money through paid advertising, social media activity, PR work or discounted/introductory offers.
Whichever way you recruit new clients you generally have one opportunity to make a good first impression (have a look at my previous article on First Impressions) and turn them into loyal, profitable clients for the future. So often, this one opportunity can be wasted and future business missed or lost:
- At the first meeting
- Don’t run late for your appointment
- Make your new client welcome, use their name and show that you have prepared for the meeting
- Spend time getting to know the client and what they are really looking for
- Encourage the client to talk – you should be listening for 80% of the time
- Look for added value which the client isn’t expecting
- Look for opportunities to add value in the future but don’t try to take all the business today
- Explain the benefits of your business and what makes it stand out from the competition
- Demonstrate how you can work with the client moving forward – use samples, visuals, testimonials
- Check that the client has all the information they need to make an informed decision
- Check that the client understands what you have to offer
- Check for any concerns or objections and discuss or resolve these
- Ask for the business and make it clear that you value the client
- Understand and monitor where the new client heard about you – this helps with future marketing
- Don’t pressure your client – a willing buyer is far more valuable and loyal to you
- Leave yourself in control of the agreed next step – you follow up with the client not the other way around
- Start to Nurture
- Confirm proposals and offers in writing and follow-up within a reasonable length of time
- Record key information about the client for future reference
- Diarise the next contact/meeting – preferably agreed with the client or a simple reminder for you to get in touch
- If you don’t win the business this time:
- talk to the person and understand why you weren’t successful
- see where you can change or improve the way you work
- accept that you can’t win all the business
- Invite the person to come back to you in the future
- If you win the business – congratulations – the hard work has just started!
- Deliver the business and remember to get it right first time
- Record and make good use of all you have learned about the client to build a relationship
- Survey as many new clients as possible to get feedback on how things went and what can be improved
- Keep in regular contact with the client through invites to
- E-mail newsletters
- Keep your website and social media up to date and interesting
- Ask for testimonials – preferably on-line via Google or industry sites e.g. Trip-Adviser
- Respond fairly and quickly to concerns or complaints
- Ask for referrals to family and friends
- Keep in touch at appropriate times to check all is well or to invite back for follow-up business
- Make it easy for the client to get in touch with you at a time and in a way which suits them
By nurturing, valuing and getting to know your new and existing clients better, you become a trusted and respected adviser for whatever business you are in. Get this right and you can earn long-term repeat business through being the automatic first choice for both the client and any of their family or friends who might want the service you provide.