Chasing new prospects is exciting, but in sales, like in life, it's the long-term relationships that end up being the most fulfilling. The value of establishing a base of regular, committed customers has been established time and again. We all know that they spend more, they require less of a salesperson's time, and have far higher Net Promoter Scores than newer customers. The problem is that those relationships require upkeep, and it can be incredibly easy to let that attentiveness slide.

The allure of a fresh opportunity is hard to look away from, and the importance of growth cannot be ignored. In fact, 44 percent of companies focus their sales efforts on acquisition, while only 18 percent focus on retention. It's always easier to focus on what's new, rather than what really provides the most value. It's the same concept you see in the world of love: in the throes of a new relationship, it's easy to remain attentive, but as time goes on, those signs of appreciation start to dwindle.

What Valentine's Day Does Wrong

The exception to that rule is Valentine's Day. Every February 14th, people in romantic relationships are slapped with a distinctive reminder that it's time to give their significant other some demonstration of their affection. Be it flowers, chocolate, or a nice dinner out, romantic displays on Valentine's Day aren't just appreciated, they're expected...which is exactly the problem.

A gift that's expected will never have as much impact as one that arrives unexpectedly. Everyone appreciates a new box of chocolates, but it will hardly bring the same level of surprised delight that it would any other day of the year. The same rule applies in sales. Every holiday season, I find myself receiving cards, well-wishes, and sometimes even gifts from different companies that count me as a customer. They are often very thoughtful and I truly do appreciate them, but only for the moment or two that they come to my attention. Within days, I forget about them completely.

By contrast, think about what it would look like if those resources were instead spent investing in an ongoing campaign for proactive appreciation. Imagine if instead of the customary holiday bottle of wine, a company sent me a small gift on my birthday, or better yet, took an even less expected opportunity.

A Better Way to Show Your Love

One of my favorite customer service stories is from a company called Rackspace, which has a budget specifically allocated to showing customers random acts of appreciation (a practice we've also implemented at my company, Velocify). When one of Rackspace's customer service employees was on the phone with a customer solving an issue, the customer mentioned that he couldn't spend too long on the phone because he hadn't found the time to eat all day. The rep quietly ordered and paid for a pizza to be delivered to the customer's work, knowing it would be greatly appreciated.

That's the type of thoughtful, out-of-the-box attention that customers remember. Even organizations with fewer resources can leave a powerful impression if they time their actions well. Customers respond to personal attention.

The follow-up point to this argument is that customer attention has to be regular. A single positive experience, no matter how impactful, isn't going to have the same effect as a continued cadence of thoughtful interactions. A truly successful relationship means treating every interaction as an opportunity to make your customer feel appreciated. It keeps your business top-of-mind for customers and shows your dedication to ensuring their happiness.

I'm not recommending that anyone slight a lover on Valentine's Day-just because expectations limit the impact of a gift, that doesn't mean expectations should be ignored. What I am suggesting is that grand romantic gestures once a year are not enough to sustain a long, fulfilling relationship. For that-whether it's a personal relationship or a relationship with a customer-you need to find unexpected ways to make that person happy all year round.