I was recently asked by a friend to
brainstorm with her sales team on the topic of “being fired”…as in being fired
by a client. This is a company that has a rather solid reputation and is not
accustomed to losing clients, yet in recent months two of the four outside
sales reps have lost clients. They were fired. My friend became concerned as to
the reasons why because the clients were not willing to talk about the
relationship (or the decline in the relationship). I was brought in to help
uncover what may have occurred.
During the first hour of our review we
discussed a variety of possibilities centering on company performance, delivery
times, quality of service, billings, etc. We looked at the possible elements
that would point to the company itself. After a brief coffee break we then
began to discuss the individuals involved in the sales process. And that’s when
it happened. The lightbulbs began to go off and the sales reps quickly realized
they were the reason the company was fired.
Now it’s not to say that a company won’t
lose a client over poor quality, mediocre customer service, poor delivery
times, or even price. These are all reasons you may lose a client. But, in my
experience, You the sales rep, are more often the reason for being fired by a
client. Why? Simple, you are the face of your company.
There tend to be 3 main reasons a client
will fire You (not your company). Avoid these reasons and you will certainly
increase client retention. Here they are:
1 – Poor Communication. Taking a
relationship for granted tends to point toward poor communication and clients
know this. When you only talk to, email, or visit with your clients when it’s
order time, they will sense your lack of caring and become dismissive of your
attempts. I’m not suggesting you text your client “sweet dreams” every night at
9:30 PM. But, staying in close contact with your clients shows you care about
them and about your relationship with them. Communication doesn’t always need
to be about an order, it could be about a piece of industry related
information. Whatever the reason for making contact, keeping in touch pays
2 – Lacking Personalization. No two
fingerprints are alike and as such no two clients are alike. Getting to know
your client goes well beyond what they need to buy from you. Knowing who your
client is will go a long way. Again, I’m not making any unusual suggestions,
such as to become weekend beer drinking buddies with your client, but getting
to know them on a semi-personal basis will carry weight. Think about this for a
moment, if you are robotic in your sales approach, show no emotion (or caring),
and treat every sale’s call as a manufactured process, then don’t be surprised
when you get replaced by the rep down the street who goes out of her way to
truly get to know “your” client.
3 – Not Believing You Have Competition.
Sales people are easily tricked into believing they are good communicators and
are personal with their clients. They do this to themselves. “They’ve been my
client for several years now, look at their order history, of course I’m in
tight with them.” Then, out of nowhere, you’re fired and replaced. You can’t
understand why, well that is until you really dig in to reasons 1 & 2
above, and tie those to the realization that you DO have competition and they
are better at 1 & 2 above than you’ve been. No matter how niche your
products or services, there is always competition. Sales people who do not
monitor competitors closely with an eye on their own client relationships may
very well find themselves on the losing end.
If you set relationship goals every day
and every week you will likely not fall into the trap of neglect. Managing a
client relationship, much like a personal relationship, requires time, patience
and practice. But, just like a personal relationship, they will grow and get
better with time.