The era of measuring your success simply by tallying your overall sales has long since passed. Smart VARs know that lasting success is often a function of building a stable base of loyal clients who will stick by your firm through thick and thin and look to you as the starting point for all of their technology-related needs.
But once the initial transaction is complete, how do you help nurture the kind of loyalty that compels first-time buyers to make the transition to long-term client status? What are the tangible and intangible qualities that can help convince customers to stick around, and how can you improve and refine your sales and service processes to incorporate these qualities and attributes?
According to market research, the transformation from one-time buyer to steady customer is a complex process that depends on an array of factors and variables. Some of these factors lie beyond the scope of your control, while others are well within your power to impact in a positive way. Use these basic concepts and ideas to create lasting partnerships with your first-time buyers.
- Seek out commonalities and touchpoints. The initiation of a long-lasting client relationship is similar in many regards to the early stages of a friendship or another social connection. Taking care to remain within professional bounds, try to establish the same type of relational foundation with new clients that you would with a new social acquaintance. Forging a meaningful connection is one of the best tools for engendering long-term client loyalty.
- Frame the sale as the first step of an ongoing partnership. From the first point of contact to the follow-up call and beyond, it’s crucial to speak and act in a way that assumes an ongoing working relationship with your new client. Take care to ensure that every aspect of your sales cycle reflects your firm’s commitment to a forward-looking, consultative approach to doing business, rather than an outdated transaction-based approach.
- Adopt a relationship-based attitude to sales and service. Take a moment to reconsider your firm’s current product offerings and services. Is your menu of products and services geared toward long-term client relationships? Do you offer an array of long-term service contracts and loyalty discounts? It is vital that your firm’s offerings are aligned with your intention to create long-term relationships with your clients.
- Consider price, value, and ROI. According to researchers, price plays an important role in influencing customers’ buying decisions. However, as loyalty to a particular firm increases, the significance of price diminishes as a factor in the decision-making process. When you’re aiming to establish long-term customers, focus on the issue of price, but also highlight equally important factors such as value and overall ROI.
- Strive to be straightforward and proactive. Customer loyalty is directly related to perceived levels of trust and comfort with the relationship. When faced with a potentially thorny problem or dilemma, or with any issue that could potentially imperil your firm’s standing in a client’s eyes, take care to address the issue honestly and directly, resolving the conflict in a timely manner. Similarly, it can also help if you take the initiative by flagging potential problems and bringing them to your customers’ attention before they find out about the issue on their own.
Does your firm have a good track record of hanging on to new clients past the crucial first sale? What’s your favorite strategy for cultivating customer loyalty? Throw in your two cents in the comments.