wardell books

Cultivating Relationships

Cultivating Relationships

Given our goal of developing “lifelong customers,” your work does not end with the sale, so before you can develop your sales systems, you must first develop systems for maintaining your current and future customers over the long-term. Should you do this in the reverse order, you may well succeed in starting your customer relationships off right, but as your customer base grows, maintaining those relationships will become increasingly difficult.

Maintaining strong, lifelong customer relationships takes more than a smile and a friendly handshake. It takes a consistent effort. Unfortunately, your customers will not usually go out of their way to maintain a relationship with you, and a solid customer relationship cannot maintain itself, so that leaves the ball in your court. Your salespeople need to take a proactive approach to your customer relationships or eventually, those relationships will fizzle out. Keeping customer relationships alive takes work, and that means time, energy, and other resources.

Exactly how to spread those resources out, however, can be a controversial subject for some. Should you treat all of your customers the same? Is equality really the right approach when your resources are limited? Some would say yes, all of your customers are important, but is that right? After all, do all of your customers provide your business with equal value? In truth, no matter how targeted your promotional efforts are, you will still attract a variety of customer types. Some will return month after month to do business with you while others may return only occasionally. Some will make large purchases while others will make small ones. Some will send referrals your way on a regular basis while others will never make this effort. The point is that different customers are worth different amounts to your business and should be treated accordingly.

If you don’t have statistics on your customer purchase history with your business, you can always begin with the “Pareto Principle” we discussed in Operations, or as it is more commonly known, the “80:20 rule.” Applied here, the implication is that 80 percent of a company’s business comes from 20 percent of its customers. The exact percentages may differ from industry to industry and even from business to business, but the general concept is still sound. Your best customers give you most of your business.

This is not to say that you should treat your less valuable customers poorly. You should never treat any of your customers poorly and you should have a minimum standard for the way you treat all of your customers, but perhaps some may be deserving of special attention. If this is the case, you’ll need a method of clearly identifying your more valuable customers.