Inevitably we start as vendors ( or experts for hire) to our customers, but how do we make them become fans or a long term trusted client partner in the jargon?
The aim of all selling is long term client or trusted partner.
How do you become a long term trusted client partner?
It obviously takes time to start breaking down the barriers and distrust of a new supplier, especially if your customer was loyal to the previous supplier.
- We start by understanding our customers.. what they need what makes them tick…. this shifts to us being able to make suggestions and set the agenda.
- We consistently over-deliver on our promises and
- we are seen to be collaborating with our customers ( even in the context of therapists this can be seen as jointly attacking a problem.. so we seem to be tackling it together).
- we listen to their concerns and take those into account and adapt as necessary.
- we provide a specialised ( unique) service that the can only get from us.
- we have a sense of shared values
In larger firms there needs to be many layers to the connection including engagement at the executive level.
The really interesting thing is that research has shown that sometimes mistakes are made, some that could potentially affect the relationship we have with our customers…. the critical factor as to whether it destroys our relationship or strengthens it is the response to a problem… does someone take on the clients particular problem and actually go out of their way to solve it and communicate that back to the customer.
Research has shown that the long term client relationship can be enhanced to a level greater than if there had been no problem in the first place. IN other words we have higher loyalty than if there hadn’t been a problem.
An example of this is me with my holiday insurance – I have a loyalty to Direct Line…
When I ended up in hospital in Spain with severe food poisoning Direct Line actually permitted my partner to stay with my four year old daughter and did not charge for the extra telephone calls even though both of those were out of the normal remit. The additional cost to Direct Line was probably £350, so not an inconsiderable cost. Yet I have remained loyal because when it was necessary they actually treated us as human beings and allayed our fears when we were vulnerable. I know other people have had horror stories when they have had to claim on holiday insurance. For me it is worth paying extra to have that peace of mind.
So what are you doing to make your best customers long term trusted partners?
In the current economic client it is more crucial than ever that you become a trusted partner… even though it may be tempting to cut the budget of those “additional, discretionary items”… it may be exactly those items that are keeping your clients loyal. The critical thing to know is why they are loyal to you… in myu case with Direct Line it is peace of mind… they are not the cheapest travel insurance but I am confident that if I need to call on them I would be treated as a human being not just another claim.