Retaining and expanding existing customers must be, or remain, a critical strategic imperative for the survival of any business today. Companies have been talking about “cross-selling” for years, but it remains an elusive concept that eludes many companies. Here are some tips for retaining and growing existing customers and/or industry segments.
- Go talk to customers. A critical part of any client retention and growth plan is to ensure that the practice team is aware of a) the client’s strategic growth objectives; b) the main leaders of the client organization (beyond perhaps the people you already know); and c) the competition and type of work they receive. There is obviously more to know. These are the key areas on which the company must have information. Go ask the customers. If there is reluctance to do so on the part of the partner(s) or the client, this should signal serious concern.
- Build peer group relationships. The long-term success of any business/customer relationship depends on building new relationships. Customers like to introduce their team members to their outside vendors’ team members. Trusting relationships take time to build. This strategic objective is not optional, it is essential for customer retention and growth.
- Don’t speculate. Acting on speculative perceptions about what customers want or need or don’t want or need is like walking on quicksand. This will quickly sink relationships. Ask and be clear so that facts and opportunities present themselves. So act on reality, not speculation.
- Facilitate conversations between you within the company. Expecting people to spend time during their day thinking about how to introduce others to their customers is not a good way to create new opportunities. Schedule a call, meeting, or virtual meeting with a relationship partner and approach the conversation the same way you would with an external referral source. Build a relationship of trust, take the next step and discuss the best options for meeting with a client or two to learn more about their work in an area where the competition seems to have a hold. Leave those internal referral source meetings with a next step to stay connected.
- Create a sales forecast of potential opportunities based on customer conversations. Keeping track of opportunities is easy. Follow on a scale of 1-5 (1s are opportunities; 2s reflect a conversation and next steps have been identified; 3s represent a 50-60% chance of active pursuit – e.g., response to RFP; meeting to present solutions); 4s are opportunities that only need final confirmation to move forward and 5s are closed business/new commitments. Sales pipelines represent an opportunity and can be energizing to move the process forward.
Implementing these essential and often-talked-about tips is a surefire way to ensure successful customer retention and growth goals.