Are you treating your clients as hot new prospects?

After months of trying to get their attention, you finally get your foot in the door. Then, after dozens of strategy sessions and tons of analysis and research, you’re sitting in the front office waiting to see the CEO.

waiting for ceoIf you’ve been there (and many of us have) I think you’ll agree that there’s nothing more exciting (or anxiety producing) than the anticipation of that moment – finally coming face to face with a highly qualified prospect with tremendous promise.

As the story goes, you don’t close the sale during that first call – and you didn’t expect it to. It’s a complex sale and it’s always a slow sales cycle. But after months of negotiating, lots of patience, and numerous ups and downs, you get the CEO’s signature on the dotted line.

A lot of effort went into making the first sale. So what happens next? In many businesses the selling stops as the client comes on line. Production takes over and moves into high gear. The client is happy and you’re happy. The money rolls in. And, in time, you expect that this is the way it will always be, everyone happy, happy, happy.

Early in my career, I learned the hard way that happy wasn’t enough… and that it was and is vitally important for me to treat every existing client as a hot, new prospect.

Here’s how I learned that lesson. I’d been working with a client for over a year providing them with ongoing marketing support for their primary product line. Although I spoke with the client at least once a week by phone and everyone was happy, I rarely (almost never) saw them face-to-face.

But one day, I did see them. The shocker came when I walked into the CEO’s office and saw a dozen layouts tacked on the wall for a new product they were launching. My jaw dropped to my knees I said, “Dave, I’m sorry we didn’t know about this. This is right up our alley.”

He answered, “Sorry, Gil. I didn’t think to call you.”

I learned the hard way – and never made the same mistake again. That lesson is, to treat every client as a hot, new, highly qualified prospect… and to pitch and re-pitch continually.

That doesn’t mean that we need to be selling continually or camping out on the CEO’s doorstep. And it doesn’t mean that we should be strong-arming our clients and customers. But my lesson learned was simply that I had to be there.

After that, I did some heavy lifting to make sure that all my clients were totally familiar with all of our services and capabilities. I’m not talking about an email blast or flyer in the mail that goes out to all current customers, but as “real” sales call in which I pitched the client again on the value and benefit to them of doing business with us as it pertained to the current projects we were working on as well as a “real” sales call in which I pitched or introduced them to a new service or solution.

These days, I’m reminded continually that in a world of instantaneous technology and communication I need to be face to face – listening all the time… being alert to what’s going on within my clients’ thinking… being alert to their plans… and continually striving to build trust.

There’s a bonus to all of this. I think clients really like it when we pitch them. It reminds them that we’re thinking about them, looking out for their wellbeing, protecting them, and that we take the business of keeping them happy very seriously.

© 2013 Gil Effron

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