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What would happen to your business if your clients loved you?  How about if your clients knew you loved them?  You may have a few clients like this, but the odds are it’s a very small percentage of your total customer base.  The odds are most of your customers are merely satisfied.

According to “Why Satisfied Customers Defect” a 1995 article in the Harvard business Review, satisfied customers are NOT loyal, just satisfied.  A completely satisfied customer, however, is more than four times more likely to purchase multiple products from you – and reward you with unsolicited referrals.  If you want Clients Forever you will need to build a system to create completely satisfied customers.  To do this means you will have to do more than just sell and deliver your products and services.

In most companies, once the sale is made and the company has fulfilled on the promise, that’s the end of the line-unless you have another sale you want to make to the same customer.

One of the largest insurance companies in America recently did a study.  Nearly a third of their policies are considered “orphans,” since they do not have an agent assigned to the client.  When the company polled their policyholders however, they found that more than two thirds didn’t think they had an assigned agent.  Nearly 14 million policyholders didn’t even realize they had an agent.  This company is well known for their commercials and advertisements.  But, this is a typical example of a company where most of their effort goes into gaining new customers rather than building a better relationship with their existing clients.

It makes one wonder if the most successful sales people, in reality, aren’t.  They may be successful at selling products or finding new prospects, but not at building long-lasting business relationships.  Most business’ think they have clients when in reality they really have customers.  A customer is someone who buys products and services from you.  A client considers you such an important part of their life…they make you a “line item” in their budget.

There are four steps for building Clients Forever.  Each step can be compared somewhat to developing a romantic relationship.

Step One:  Prior Presence

The first step for most companies is marketing.  In a typical situation it’s similar to looking for a date.  If you were going to prepare yourself to go out hoping to meet someone for the first time in a long time there are certain things you’d probably do.  You’d take a shower or bath, get your hair cut, either wear your best clothes or buy a new outfit, put on cologne or perfume, and all-in-all do whatever you could to make yourself presentable.  You’d probably even practice having conversations with people.

When I ask audiences why someone would do all of this they answer, “So when you meet someone they’ll say ‘Wow!’”

Let’s compare this with prospecting for new clients.  If you knew you were meeting a new important prospect you’d probably make sure you were prepared.  You’d take a shower, make sure your hair was right, wear the right clothes, the right watch, a good cologne or perfume and all-in-all do whatever you could to make yourself presentable.  You’d probably even practice conversations with yourself or another to prepare for your potential meeting.

When I ask audiences why someone would do all of this they answer, “So when you meet the prospect they’ll say ‘Wow!’”

As natural as this may sound it’s not the most effective effort to create either a personal or a business relationship that works.  What creates a connection isn’t so much what you are doing…it’s who you’re being.

People may be impressed by what you possess and how you present yourself. Who they really want to have in their life however, is someone they know is coming from the heart, someone who speaks the truth, someone they can trust. Looking good on the outside can stop them from looking deeper and make it difficult for you to share yourself.

If the relationship works, the details won’t get in the way.  If the relationship doesn’t work, the details won’t help.  The relationship you have with someone else will be a mirror of your relationship with yourself.  If you want them to trust you then you have to trust yourself. You can only trust a part of yourself you have revealed to another and had it validated rather than violated.  You can’t gain trust in a vacuum…you can only gain trust in relationship.  And all relationships present an opportunity to move in that direction.

The first step in Clients Forever is called Prior Presence.  Your prospects have a sense of who you are even before they meet you.  You already show up in their mind as being a particular type of person before they ever talk to you or shake your hand.

There are 6 steps for creating a powerful Prior Presence.

  1. Creating an effective Prior Presence begins with your values – What is important about life to you? You have to know what’s really important in your life for you to know what to pay attention to.  Most of us think we know…but we’re often only paying attention to what’s urgent rather than what’s important.
  1. The second step is to establish a vivid understanding of what The E-Mythauthor Michael Gerber calls your Primary Aim.  This is often talked about as your purpose, your destiny, why you were put here on earth.  To paraphrase Roy Disney “When your destiny is clear, your decisions are easy.”
  1. The third step is to clearly establish your life’s operating principles.  These are the guidelines you choose to keep you on course in expressing who you are.
  1. The fourth step is to establish your operating practices.  These are simple behaviors that help you behave in a way that best expresses who you are.
  1. Fifth is to define who is your ideal client?  Who is the kind of person you most want to be around?  It’s more than “What are they worth. It’s really what are they like?
  1. The last part of a successful Prior Presence is to develop a systematic plan to build a community of like-minded people.  This includes identifying where to find your ideal clients, knowing what they respect, and being able to systematically reach them.

Think about it.  If you are clear about what’s important in life, what your life’s purpose is all about, the principles and practices that help you to show up authentically, who your ideal client is and how to reach them, you’re in a position to focus all of your energy on building a business where you truly can express yourself honestly and openly.

Step Two

In a typical company the next step is the sales process.  It is similar to courtship in a romantic relationship.  You’ve found a likely target, oops, someone who you are attracted to.  You begin the fine-feathered dance of courtship.  You buy them gifts.  You take them to lunch and dinner. You show an interest in things in which they are interested.  You talk about subjects you know nothing about.  You begin to talk about subjects you think you know something about.  You begin to talk about yourself, to sell yourself.  Let the contest begin!

In way too many business meetings the salesperson begins a similar courting process with their prospect.  They take them to lunch or dinner.  They make comments about decorating items in the prospect’s office.  They talk about themselves, their company, their products, their values, their company’s mission statement, everything other than what’s most important to the prospect…and that is the prospect themselves.

The more you talk about yourself the less likely it is you’re going to get a sale. The best way for a prospect to become a client is for them to discover a connection between what they want and what is most important to them.  This may sound familiar, but our experience is that most salespeople do not know how to create this insight.  And they certainly can’t create an insight like this on purpose rather than accidentally.

This second step in building Clients Forever is called Conversion.  This is more than just making a sale.  We want our new clients to become “true believers.”  This takes the place of the selling process that most salespeople are trained to conduct.  Most salespeople have been trained to go through a “step-of-sale” process.

Here’s what doesn’t work with that approach.

When we focus on the steps of the sale, it becomes all about the salesperson trying to understand how his or her products solve the prospect’s needs.  Shift your focus from a sales process to a buying process however, and watch your effectiveness increase dramatically.  We do this by assisting the buyer to discover the connection between what they want and what’s most important to them.

A buying decision occurs in the prospect’s mind, naturally, only after they create a clear picture about what might happen if they went down one path and what could happen if they went down a different path.  If the prospect can’t see the outcomes, you can pitch them all you want, but they’ll stand frozen like a deer caught in the headlights of a car- confused and afraid.

Someone who is trained to facilitate a buying process recognizes that, until the client has a clear picture in their own mind about what happens if they make one decision or another they aren’t going to decide.  This is a long way from using traditional techniques of probing for a weakness and leveraging that knowledge into getting your prospect to buy a product.  Rather than resorting to negative emotions to sell, you serve as a facilitator and help your prospective client discover what they value, what they want, and the implications of their decisions.  The natural result is a client who trusts you and your recommendations because they can clearly understand the implications of their own decisions.  For many prospects this is the beginning of the kind of relationship that most people only dream about.

The natural outcome of facilitating a buying process in this way is that your prospect will trust you and want to do business with you.  They will already begin feeling like they have entered into a special kind of relationship with a special kind of person.

Step Three

In traditional business development the third step is usually considered to be out of the salesperson’s hands.  It is similar to the engagement process in a romantic relationship.  The sale is made, now it’s time to begin living up to all those promises.  You begin to find out what your future relationship is REALLY like.  Future in-laws begin to show their beady little heads.  Other voices begin to add their opinion about your plans.  “This works.”  “This doesn’t work.”  “Did anyone bother to look into that before we made a decision to go ahead?”  Well, we can’t do it this way.”  “You’ll just have to go back and come up with something else.”  “Oh, and by the way, this is going to cost a whole lot more than you thought.”

In building Clients Forever we call the third step “Fulfilling on the Impossible Promise.”  This is where the company keeps the salesperson’s promises.  This is where everyone in the company makes a choice.  They can choose to be who and what the salesperson says the company is, or they can choose to come up with excuses about why it’s not possible to keep those promises.

I mentioned earlier that this step is typically considered to be out of the salesperson’s hands.  That is an illusion.  Any salesperson can have a profound impact on how their clients are treated.

Once again this is determined not so much by what the salesperson is doing, but more by whom they are “being.”  If the salesperson operates as someone who does not make a difference, then their clients are naturally going to get treated as though they don’t make a difference either.  On the other hand, if the salesperson operates as the person who is responsible for the integrity of the operation of the company, then their clients will tend to get treated with this integrity and intentionality regardless of the circumstances that surround them.

How do we invoke in the people the spirit that we can do anything?  How do we have everyone in the company operate as though we can do the impossible?  It begins with what a person or company is willing to stand for.

Two authors in particular offer insights into how to invoke this spirit.  The first is Joel Barker, a leading authority on “thinking outside the box.” In his book, Paradigms:  The Business of Discovering the Future (HarperCollins), Barker offers a powerful way to create a breakthrough vision for a company.  He advises the top people in organizations to address the question, “What is a promise that our company can’t possibly fulfill today, but that if we could fulfill would absolutely transform our business?”

A clear example of such an impossible promise is “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”…FedEx.  Another is Taco Bell’s new promise ”you like it, or we eat it.”  What is your company’s impossible promise?  What are you willing to stand for?

To identify a promise that is so outstanding it makes you question whether you can fulfill it is more than a mere exercise.  It is how you move people to another level of competency.

The second author is Kurt Wright, whose work identifies key cultural influence factors that allow people to become peak performers.  In his book, Breaking the Rules: Removing the Obstacles to Effortless High Performance (CPM Publishing, 800-726-5885) Wright contrasts traditional management with transformational leadership.  He shows why management can be confining and breaks the spirit, while transformational leadership is expanding…and allows people to express their spirit by inviting them to step into and full a vacuum that needs to be filled.

His research indicates that peak performance occurs only when conditions allow someone to “give all they’ve got!”  A key element of the conditions that draw people into such high levels of commitment is the recognition that something needs to be done, seems impossible to do, and they are the only one who can do it.  Once the initial commitment is made, conditions must then allow the person to operate with absolutely no concern for a “downside” to any actions they may take.  They will truly “stand and deliver.”

As leaders demonstrate their willingness to reach for the impossible, it’s amazing how quickly the rest of the company will “rise to the occasion.”  Any salesperson truly willing to live their values can be the leader that transforms their company.

Step Four

In a typical company…there is no step four.  If this were a romantic relationship, this is the marriage.  Buy them flowers for their birthday and a present for the Holidays.  Every once in a while…when you think of it…take them out to dinner and tell them you love them.  And we wonder why the divorce rate is so high.

The divorce rate is even higher in business. Send them the company newsletter in hopes they see something else they want to buy.  Call them if you have a new product to cross-sell them. Put a note in your tickler file to remind yourself to tell them they are important at least once every quarter, whether you need to or not.

Unfortunately, there are lots of salespeople who are only interested in “one-night stands.’  Once they get that purchase from a new customer, the sales person is off looking for a new conquest.

If you’re operating like this you’re spending a lot of time prospecting and marketing for new business rather than asking for referrals because it’s hard to ask for a referral from someone you don’t feel connected to. Direct mail, seminars, cold calling, networking, etc., become a way of life.  A customer becomes just another prospect for a future sale.

In building Clients Forever the fourth step is the after-sale relationship.  We call it the “Business Marriage” TM.

How much contact does each client need if they are to know they are still important to you?  What kind of contact works best with each client?

If they get a message from you at times they don’t expect it, it forces them to recognize the fact that they are important to you. Keep contact with your clients by sending them personalized non-sales related cards, letters, gifts, clippings, or other relevant items at times they don’t expect it.

You don’t even have to do it yourself.  There are companies that can follow-through on your good intentions.  For more information on companies that do this you can call 1-877-926-3783.

When a prospect knows what you stand for before they meet you, they have an understanding of what to expect when doing business with you.

When prospects “sell themselves” because you facilitated a discovery process rather that trying to sell them something, they will trust you.

When the people in a company make things happen simply because that’s who they are then impossible promises are kept.

When the client continues to be a focus of attention-especially after the sale –they recognize they are important to you.

When you are a “human being” rather than a “human doing” people feel connected to you.  They know they are a part of your community and you are a part of theirs. At this point they will not just be loyal, they will be evangelists for you.

When they know that you are that kind of resource, you become part of their inner circle, an important part of their company and their life.  They will tell the closest and most important people in their life how great you are.

This is about treating people with the dignity of the human spirit-about making others understand they are important.  This is a way of creating an incredible trusting relationship where people want to be involved with you.  And that’s a big part of how to have Clients Forever TM!

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