Regardless of business type, healthy, growing relationships are vital to your business’s long-term success. Healthy relationships enhance client retention while strengthening opportunities for relationship expansion and new client acquisition.
Unfortunately, it is easy to take client relationships for granted or even miss signals that a relationship is in decline. Following are several signs of decline that author and relationship expert Andrew Sobel says to watch for.
The relationship is no longer expanding. This is a key indicator of decline, so watch for measures like revenue growth, broadening of the relationship (using more products or services), innovation of services and solutions provided, and improving circumstances and/or results for the client. Ask yourself this question: Is your relationship expanding, or is it static?
You are not proactively ‘investing’ in the relationship. Instead, you’re treating it like a ‘cash cow.’ Relationship growth requires consistent investment in the client which includes things like recognizing and researching things of interest to the client, occasionally assisting with strategic projects on a complimentary basis, and introducing others who can provide a benefit. In other words…give first! Ask yourself this question: Are you intentionally investing in your clients?
The client is not proactively engaging with you. Early signals include a decline in the number of client-initiated phone calls or emails asking for advice or help, thereby drawing you into his or her daily life or that of the organization. Are you still invited to internal events? Is the client unhappy or complaining? Ask yourself this question: Is your client proactively seeking your counsel?
You have a narrow relationship. Does an account depend on a single relationship, or is it anchored by several across the organization? If only one executive or manager, the relationship may not be as strong as you believe. Ask yourself this question: What would happen if that single individual’s circumstances or perspective changed or if he or she departed?
Lack of planning and feedback. Sound relationship management requires a plan for sustaining and growing relationships, especially our most important ones. It also requires feedback about their perceptions and level of satisfaction. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have such plans? Do you seek client feedback…and act on it?
There are significant executive changes. Management turnover or changes may present new opportunities. They may also present a threat, particularly if you are insufficiently grounded in the organization. Ask yourself these questions: What management changes are anticipated or happening now? Is there a plan to address them? Who is next in line to work with?
Your client is in crisis right now. If your client is in financial trouble, your relationship may be at risk. Conversely, it may present a perfect opportunity to strengthen it. Ask yourself these questions: Is your client having a financial or operational crisis? Is it temporary or indicative of longer-term decline? Do you have solutions that will either eliminate or mitigate the crisis?
There are additional signs of relationship decline to be sure, including detractors, industry consolidation, not having an optimal service team in place, and fewer client referrals and introductions just to name a few. However, the signs identified above are particularly important, because they are easily recognizable, and most are within in your ability to control…if you choose to.
By paying attention, you can enhance your existing relationships, improve business development results, and better care for your valued clients.