I first learned this lesson years ago when I owned an insurance and financial services agency. I found that there are generally 3 groups of clients: the ones who come and go and whose loyalty is to the best deal they can find, the clients who are content to stay with you as long as you provide adequate service and keep their best interests in mind, and then there are the evangelists.
Ultimately, as a sales professional or business owner, you want to convert and nurture the evangelists and grow their numbers. Not only are they loyal clients, but they are the ones who will refer all their friends, family, co-workers, etc., over to you! This segment of customer is your proverbial gold mine.
So how does one begin to identify and nurture this highly valuable client segment? Well, I would like to offer 5 tips that I find effective!
Tip 1: Organization and CRM Tools
It is imperative that you have an up-to-date and thorough system of tracking clients and data. Most often, this is accomplished via a CRM tool. Whether you are using Sales Force, Inisghtly, Zoho, Hubspot (my favorite), or any other, keeping track of the data for your client and business colleagues is absolutely critical. When you have a solid grasp on your data, you are able to organize yourself in a much more efficient manner and you will begin to understand your business and professional network, from a sales and relationship point of view, on a much more fundamental level. I personally recommend Hubspot www.hubspot.com because it is the most automated (and free) tool that I have see thus far. It makes contact management a breeze with minimal effort.
Tip 2: Recognize Loyalty
Once you have visibility over the "big picture" of your professional network, you can begin to pick out those actors who represent that 20%. Again, having good record keeping helps here as you can efficiently record and track client seniority, where referrals have come from, which positive business relationships have had positive outcomes, etc. Developing a system that allows you to identify these resources in a tangible manner is critical to executing the subsequent steps. It can be as simple as classifying contact via a system of stars i.e. 1 star a low level contact and 5 stars an evangelist. Create a ranking that makes sense to you and keep it organized!
Tip 3: Nurture Loyalty
We all like to get something for nothing. But unfortunately the world does not work that way; and when it comes to business, it shouldn't! At the end of the day, growing your business is about people and relationships. So showing those that help you how much they are appreciated is a really great way to ensure that the 80/20 rule continues to apply to your business. Nurturing loyalty is more than a quick email thanking someone for their business or for a referral. Its about truly showing your appreciation for their patronage and support. Phone calls, cards, gifts, etc., these are all fantastic ways to show your appreciation. In turn, that 20% will continue to reciprocate as they sense your gratitude and appreciation. Givenly.com (www.givenly.com) offers an easy and convenient service to nurture loyalty via the sending of personalized gifts. Its like an automated CRM but with gifts!
Tip 4: Consistency is Key
Once you have a method and system down to recognize and reward loyalty, its important to stay consistent. Yes, sending someone a thank for a referral is important, but wouldn't it be nice to encourage that individual to send a continuous stream of referrals? That is where consistency enters the picture. Stay in front of your network! Stay top of mind, always! When you are staying in front of your network in a highly visible and appreciative manner, even if you are not immediately receiving business from your contacts, keep at it! You will not only develop an attitude of reciprocity with your network in which they feel almost "obligated" to send you more business, but your name will always be at the top of their mind the next time someone asks them about a a real estate agent, or an attorney, or a banker, etc. Its all about keeping you in front of your people in a friendly and appreciative way.
Tip 5: Surprise!
When is the last time you sent a valued client or partner a gift on their birthday? Or for their new baby? Or wedding anniversary? Or deal closing anniversary? Yes, we all love to send gifts on the holidays. Its almost expected these days. But you are doing exactly what everyone else (and your competition) is doing! You need to stand out! Show your client or professional contacts that you know them outside of a mere business context. Demonstrate to them that you paid attention to them the last time you spoke. That you listened and asked questions. That they mean more to you than a paycheck. Surprise them with something unexpected. This is how you ingrain your name, your brand, your service into their minds, and consequently, ensure that 80% of your future business will always be coming from that reliable and steady segment of your network!