I'm pleased to share this guest post with you written by Tori Atkinson from Win that Bid - which was inspired by my Don’t Throw Away A Customer Unless You Want To blog.
Working in a B2B industry offers an extra level of pressure to business owners, as losing just one of your clients can have a dramatic impact on your revenue - not to mention your reputation. Securing new business is massively gratifying for any company, but more important still is having the qualities and abilities required to retain your clients indefinitely.
Many SMEs neglect essential aspects of client relations and suffer the consequences as a result - but by paying your clients the care and attention that they deserve (and crave), you can guarantee solid, long-term relationships which will inevitably pay dividends.
Communicating openly and honestly with your clients is key - B2B is about mutually beneficial partnerships, which makes it essential to disclose everything your clients need and deserve to know. Keep them in the loop at all times - alerting them to any obstacles or issues, as well as providing regular updates on the project - and prove your loyalty to guarantee a client who is assured that they are a priority. Make yourself available through as many means of contact as possible (e.g. phone, email and Skype, as well as in-person) for effective and gratifying client communications.
Similarly, demonstrating to clients what their loyalty is worth is an effective way of strengthening and sustaining working relationships. Offer long-term clients preferential treatment, honouring them with reward programmes and exclusive offers - and make sure to express your gratitude for their business whenever possible.
In B2B relations, SMEs are only as good as their word - and it’s your job to deliver on everything you promise a client, by precisely when you promised. In establishing deadlines, you ease client stresses, assuring them that everything is in hand - and that’s why maintaining relationships with clients is dependent upon being consistently timely and reliable.
Your clients’ businesses are their livelihood, which means you should offer them nothing less than a feeling of total security. Every client should know what you’re thinking, where the project is going and anything that stands in the way of established objectives, making it your duty to be transparent and predictable throughout your relationship.
Offering value beyond what clients are paying you for is an excellent way to guarantee client retention. Acting as a useful resource on various topics you know are of importance and relevance to your client separates you from other vendors, especially when providing this information doesn’t offer any direct benefits for you. Selflessness is a highly desirable quality in a client.
While fulfilling all of the basic requirements as a client - meeting their objectives, attending to their needs and, of course, providing the service you’re being paid for - a certain way of avoiding losing a client to someone else is to nurture a sense of partnership. This way, clients will grow to view you as more than an investment and rather as a partner in their organisation - a feeling that is incredibly hard to shake.
To eliminate any doubt in your client’s mind that what you provide is a bespoke service, you need to demonstrate an inherent understanding of their business and indeed their industry. By doing your research on an ongoing basis, staying fully up-to-date with what your client and their competitors are doing, you can prove your worth and reassure your client that they’re in good, exceptionally informed hands.
Every client, whether they’ll admit it or not, wants to feel like your most important client - if not your only client. By taking the time to show your client that they’re of the utmost importance to you (by offering them more than they’re entitled to), you can cement relationships and even improve your chances of a referral down the line.
By performing above and beyond what is expected, and giving your client more than you’ve promised, you can guarantee that clients will remember your extra accommodation - and perhaps even work your way up to a greater level of service (and spend). The primary benefit of these relationship-building behaviours is the mutual benefit - ensuring that your clients are happy and your company is able to thrive without the threat of losing valuable business.
Tori Atkinson is a content creator for Win That Bid, the UK’s leading bid writing and proposal specialists - helping companies throughout the UK to secure big new business. Follow them on Twitter @winthatbid
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