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4 Ways to Manage Slippery Customers and Be Sticky

You've worked hard to build a relationship with your customers, don't let it slip away. Here are four ways you can become more "sticky."
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Nothing is more frustrating in this competitive, hyper-commoditized world in which we live as businesses than working with a customer and believing you have developed a value-based relationship with them only to be tossed into a bidding war every year to keep the business.

As I approach this idea of being "sticky"--which means not being so easily removed from a customer as a provider because of a lower priced competitor--let's make a few assumptions:

  1. You provide a good product or service at a market-relevant price. Not necessarily the lowest, and maybe the highest, but logically justifiable.
  2. Your customers are regularly being approached by competitors who encourage your customers to "try them out" or switch entirely based upon promises of equal or better performance at same or lower prices.
  3. Your customers can switch with relative ease, (or what they perceive to be ease), from you to you competitors.

If these assumptions fit for you, and you have felt some "slippage" with your customers, here are some things you can do to become stickier.

Expand your connection net. Often in customer relationships, once the agreement has been made to work together, the management of the relationship thins. The sales person or account manager becomes the primary and often singular point of connection to the customer. On the customer's side, they also thin their points of contact to only transaction processors. If you want to be sticky, you need more touchpoints in the relationship. We recommend that you look at a minimum of three connections that are occurring between your company and your customer's company on at the bare minimum of once or more per month.

Set regular meetings that do more than review your account performance. Account performance is important, but if you don't bring additional value and insight about the marketplace, their competitors, and improvement recommendations, then you will get fewer people from the customer's side attending and you will be less valuable. You have to be increasing the value of your company's relationship with their company, or you will become slippery--not sticky.

Lay claim to your "above-and-beyonds". Too often, we believe that when we go above and beyond in serving our customer that it is recognized and communicated broadly inside the customer organization. Actually, and sadly, it is only noted by one or two people and forgotten quickly. Successful companies use their regular account review sessions to catalog their "above-and-beyond" service as a part of the agenda. Sure, it's tooting your own horn--but if you don't do it, you can't be certain it is being done.

Be aware of your competitors and what they are claiming. I see companies play pretend too often. By pretending that your customers do not know about the new invention, price reduction, or service expansion that is being offered by your competitors, you are truly only fooling yourself. Being aware allows you to prepare your response and often proactively take the issue off of the table with your customer. Responding AFTER the competitor approaches your customer is a terrible strategy. This puts you in the position of being behind the curve.

More touchpoints, more moments of recognized contribution, and more scope of value widely communicated will help you to become stickier to your important customers.

Last updated: Mar 19, 2014

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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