Looking to build customer loyalty? Any relationship between a buyer and a seller that is built on integrity will work. This is especially true during the “getting to know each other” phase.
People become more productive and positive when everyone involved is considered equal. We call this a workable client relationship. In this type of relationship, people respect one another. They communicate openly and get back to each other on a timely basis. They honor their agreements and promises, and make sure to follow through on them.If they know they won’t be able to keep a promise, they let the other person know as soon as possible. And they apologize, clean up the mess quickly, and make a new promise.
Within workable client relationships, people focus on moving things forward. This includes making clear requests of each other, which are accepted, declined, or counter offered. Can you see how behaving this way makes client relationships work?
Unfortunately, many client relationships devolve into a state of “unworkability,” and quite often we don’t know why. It can start with idle gossip, which can lead to a pervasive lack of respect for a client, especially if left unchecked. On the other hand, clients and prospects don’t realize how demoralizing it is for salespeople when communication goes unanswered. When a prospect goes radio silent, salespeople begin to second-guess themselves. They wonder if something they said or did offended the other party.
Customer Loyalty: Why Workability Matters Most
Trying to build customer loyalty? Let’s examine “workability” in client relationships by using an analogy.
So, let's use a bicycle wheel to represent a client relationship. Think about what holds that wheel together. The spokes, right? And if you remove a few of the spokes, that wheel might still work, but not at 100%.
Now ask yourself, “How many client relationships do we have with missing spokes?”
So, do you get where I’m going with this? A wheel with all its spokes in place is 100% workable. It has workability. The wheel has integrity and is trustworthy. Can you say the same about your prospects and clients? And can they say the same about you?
For client relationships to work, whereby all spokes are present and accounted for, everyone must honor their word. Simply put, honoring your word means that your word means something and it is taken seriously.
Within a workable relationship, it’s OK to break your word, providing that you quickly and responsibly acknowledge it. Communicating ahead of time that you will not be able to fulfill on a promise enables you to break your word, while still honoring it. Make sure you inform others who might be impacted by this. If breaking your word causes a mess, clean it up as soon as possible.
Keys to workability for customer loyalty
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Stay engaged.
- Understand the client’s industry in general and their business specifically.
- Understand the client’s goals.
- Quantify value.
- Honor your word.
- Get back to each other on a timely basis.
- Give honest and timely feedback.
- Make promises and deliver on them.
- Make clear requests.
- Minimize sharing casual opinions.
- Don’t gossip about each other.
Share your organization’s core sales philosophy for workable client relationships
So how do you help your sales team make client relationships work? Encourage them to define workability early on in the prospecting and selling phase of a business opportunity.
Train your salespeople to define workability with prospective clients. It might sound something like this:
“Thank you so much for this opportunity to present my solution on behalf of my company. I’d like to define my company’s top three philosophies that we believe make our client relationships work.
- We are a feedback organization.
- We must add value.
- We’re invested in a long-term relationship.”
Then define each of these philosophies. I’m certain that this will spark some healthy dialog.
For example, say, “Being a feedback organization means that we live and die on timely feedback, regardless of it being positive or negative. For example, you might ask us to submit a proposal after this meeting. We simply ask in return that you respond to it with feedback on a timely basis.”
Can you see that any feedback is better than no feedback? This approach significantly helps to head-off radio silence. You could even say that your own organization practices the same philosophy by maintaining an open-door policy with all of its employees.
“We must add value” means that your organization is focused on providing maximum value all of the time. The salesperson could explain how this fits in the sales process by saying that you practice asking critical questions so you can understand your prospects’ challenges. This allows you to match solutions appropriately.
Also, saying “We are invested in a long-term relationship” indicates that workable relationships will last a long time. You might even say that losing an opportunity with a prospect or client is OK, providing that you don’t lose the relationship.
Five aspects that make client relationships work:
- Agreeing on the scope and deliverables for what you are solving for
- Identifying who is responsible for what
- Making specific promises to each other
- Making specific requests of each other
- Aligning on intended outcomes for the client and their organization
Do you have a go-to method for building client loyalty? Share in the comments below, we'd love to hear more!