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October 10, 2022

Companies must embrace lifetime client philosophy

Bill Field

If you’re a sales dog, in a revenue-producing role or charged with customer-facing engagement, clients are your lifeblood.

Your career and livelihood depend upon driving business, day in and day out. Sales are the engine that turns the wheels and drives commerce.

Gaining revenue from new clients is expensive, yet critically important. It’s been stated over and over that in order to remain a thriving enterprise, revenue from new products and new customers needs to be well north of 25% every year.

This metric dynamic gets all the visibility and noise from the C-suite. What’s often overlooked and sometimes forgotten is the other 75% — existing clients and customers.

They keep the lights on and pay salaries.

Too often, loyal clients are taken for granted like a comfortable pair of shoes.

“They’ll always be with us” or “they love us” can be heard uttered throughout the office.It smells of complacency. A client hates being relegated to back-seat status, or ignored because your object of attention is the shiny new client.

Clients sniff this out right away. They fondly remember the effort and time you put into winning their business.

Churn happens quickly in business. In the blink of an eye, a client looks for a new partner. You’re left wondering what happened as you took your eye off what truly matters — the existing and loyal client.

The term du jour that’s bandied about today is CX — customer engagement. It’s supposedly the know all and end all. It’s one-sided thinking — all about the people selling the products or services.

More emphasis needs to be directed at LC — think lifetime client or lifetime customer mentality. It’s the method that drove the majority of my actions across many decades in the communications business.

It led to having clients for more than 30 years across multiple engagements. I didn’t measure success in salaries and bonuses (of course, that’s important), but how long a client stayed with me and the firm.

The lifetime client way of thinking is equal parts hard work and savvy actions combined with a caring mentality. It’s a behavior that becomes part of your business DNA.

You can’t fake it. You have to be all in. You’ll be glad you did.

Here are some tips that worked for me:

Bring a gift. You don’t turn up empty-handed when invited to a person’s house. The gift takes the form of an insight about their business or category. Share something that they don’t know.

Be a student of their business. Really learn their product category or business silo. Know their competitors better than they do. Understand the go-to-market strategy. Be their trusted resource by serving as their eyes and ears to the market.

Understand their “win.” Help clients win was my personal mantra, the positioning used to differentiate an ad agency where I spent over 25 years.

Of course, you’re saying, what firm doesn’t want their clients to win? It goes much deeper with far-reaching tentacles.

Yes, your company needs to be victorious, but so do your client and customer contacts. They all have different measurements for winning. Discover what their “personal win” is and you’ll be in a better position to have a client for life.

How are we doing? Check in. It’s a simple action but too often not executed.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch used the “How am I doing” strategy flawlessly. He allowed people to see that he cared about what they thought. The very nature of him asking for feedback made him approachable.

It’s an easy way of giving people permission to voice issues or displeasure with your products or services. You’ll uncover issues long before they boil over. Why not implement that strategy?

Be a true ally of the client. Sometimes it means falling on your sword. Or taking a bullet. Don’t defend at all costs and you’ll live to fight another day. Don’t be your company’s toady. Fight for your clients.

That’s what separates the good from the great client-facing and sales pros.

Implementing a client for a lifetime mantra is the first step to achieving this. It’s built by performing day in and day out and year over year.

Clients move to new positions (close to 20% move every year, according to LinkedIn), which means you may have that lifetime client at several different stops and times in your career and theirs. It’s surely easier than beating the bushes or prospecting all the time.

Client relationships are currency. Treat clients with care and relentless commitment and you’ll have them for life.

Bill Field is the founder of FieldActivate, a Connecticut-based marketing firm.

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