Ask yourself these questions:
Do I thank my customers for their business?
How do I thank my customers?
How often do I thank my customers?
How often do I contact my customers?
What do I tell them?
Are my communications with my customers different than my communications with non-customers?
Can my customers tell that I treat them differently?
How can they tell?
Do my communications recognize the importance of my customers?
How frequently do my customers hear from me?
Do I make my customers feel special, like "insiders"?
What do I do to make them feel special?
It takes a sincere interest in your customers and a willing dedication to effectively communicate. You will create customer loyalty when you communicate effectively before, during, and after business transactions. People detect sincerity. Customers know if you truly have an interest in them. They can tell if your interest is in the sale or in them. Your sincere interest in the customer is reflected through your communications during transactions. Your willing dedication to establishing a relationship before transacting business and consistently following up after business transaction demonstrates that you are effectively communicating.
The average American business loses half of its customers every five years. You have to do something different than what the average business does if you are going to avoid this loss. The average business owner or sales professional is typically very effective in closing a sale while they are transacting business or in a sales presentation; however, these same business owners and sales professionals do little to build relationships before or after transacting business. This void is your opportunity to stand out from your competition.
Your first opportunity comes before you transact or attempt to close a business deal. Remember, we are talking about customers who have already done business with you. The homework or preparation you do before you meet with the customer demonstrates your interest. If you are well prepared, you are telling the customer they are important. Even if your only effort is to become familiar with their past transactions, you are demonstrating your interest. The more preparation you do, the more appreciative your customer will be.
Your second opportunity to stand out from the competition is when you talk with your customer. When you think about your own buying experiences, how often does it appear that the people you are doing business with are most interested in making a sale today. The message usually seems to be: what would it take to get you to buy this car, house, copier, subscription, insurance, or whatever today? Sometimes the message takes the form of, "If you were renewing your contract today, would you?" Sales managers encourage their sales staff to use these kinds of closing questions. When the salesperson is asking these questions, the customers is hearing, "It's not about you, it's about a sale. I'm not thinking about you, I'm thinking about the money. We'll worry about loyalty next time, right now I'm trying to earn a living." Put yourself in the customer's position. Help them make a decision, don't force them to make a decision. Don't push them; lead them to the best possible solution.
The third opportunity to effectively communicate with your customer comes after you have transacted business. Are you thanking your customer for their business? Is your thank you sincere? Are you sending a thank you note to provide tangible evidence of your appreciation? Are you communicating with your customers with newsletters or e-zines?
Maintaining contact with your customers after you have done business with them requires dedication. You must develop a system of routine, regular, and frequent contacts. Newsletters, if they are personalized, can be very effective. A personalized newsletter is a newsletter that talks about people. It talks about you, your staff, or about your customers.
Newsletters or notices that only announce upcoming sales or new products are perceived by customers to be no more than advertisements. When these same messages are personalized, the results improve dramatically. A poorly written but highly personalized communication will produce greater results than a beautifully written impersonal communication. People want to do business with people, and your communications after the sale should serve this purpose.
Dick Wilson is vice president at UBS Financial Services and has been a very successful stockbroker with a six-figure income for nearly 25 years. Dick didn't come from the right family or the right side of town or have any special privilege before becoming a stockbroker. Dick came from a military family and spent his youth moving from military base to military base. Dick was not endowed with social connections and, in fact, didn't have any base of business at all when he started. Dick got most of his prospects from other stockbrokers who were leaving the business. The guy leaving might have a couple of dozen clients or prospects. Dick would ask the guy, "Hey, do you mind if I call on your clients after you leave?"
Dick claims his success is due to his enormous amount of client contact. He makes 25,000 phone calls every year. That is not a misprint. None of those calls are cold calls: Dick is calling clients and people referred from his clientele. Dick reports it's not that difficult to make 25,000 phone calls per year. In fact, he says, "It is simple. Make 500 calls per week. That's 100 calls a day. Even if you only work eight hours, that's only 12 calls an hour." His average call is three minutes, so he still has about 20 minutes every hour to do other things.
The part that's best about Dick's activities is his good use of time. Dick was probably the first sales executive I ever saw using a headset. Since he does not have to hold the phone, his hands are free to address envelopes and write notes while he is talking to his clients. Dick is sending stuff—thank you notes, prospectuses, and newspaper clippings—to his clients constantly. Dick even saves his junk mail and resends it to his clients who might have an interest in whatever was sent to him. Dick knows his greatest sales tool is staying in touch with his clients. He continually lets them know he is interested in them and how important they are to him.
As an exercise, choose three or four sample customers. These should be customers who you have dealt with on a repeat basis. Make a list of the work and time you spent preparing before the last transaction with each of these people. The way some businesses operate, you may not be able to prepare before you meet with a customer. If this is your situation, how much time and effort did you spend reviewing prior dealings with these customers before you began transacting current business?
Examine your style of speech while you were transacting business with these sample customers. Were you most interested in helping them or closing a sale? Was closing the sale most important for you or for them? You may want to record a few meetings with your customers so you can review and evaluate what your customers are hearing.
Make a list of all correspondence, newsletters, phone calls, thank you notes, or any other contact you had with these customers since their last transaction. Are you routinely, regularly, and frequently contacting your customers? Is your contact personalized?