After a long pursuit, you have won your dream client. You have a signed contract, your operations team is executing, and you are pursuing your next prospective client. You have heard nothing from your team or your client, so you assume everything is going as planned—until your client calls to tell you they are having problems.
These calls can cause you to take a defensive position. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may lose your client. Your absence can change the relationship you built over the sales conversation.
Accountability For Results
As a B2B salesperson, you are accountable for hitting your sales targets and you are accountable to your clients for the outcomes you promised them. This is true even if your operations team is responsible for delivering those outcomes. You are still accountable even if you have a customer success function.
Believing your responsibility ends with a signed contract will prevent you from having a client for life. If your contact hasn’t heard from you, your one-and-done approach can harm your relationship or cause you to lose them.
By communicating early in the execution of the results you promised, your follow-up can allow you to adjust before your client has a problem.
It Is Your Client or Someone Else’s
Your client is either your client, or they’re someone else’s. If you don’t communicate and follow up they aren’t your client. If your client only hears from you when it is time to renew their contract, you might find that, eventually, they are not interested in renewing said contract.
A salesperson who doesn’t frequently communicate with their clients opens a door for a competitor who is willing to offer their time. You can’t prevent your client from taking a meeting with your rival, but that’s far less likely to happen if you put in the effort to follow up and maintain the relationship. (See Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition.)
In a meeting with a large client, my contact answered the phone and allowed me to listen to a competitor pitch him as to why they should replace me and my company. In that same meeting, he answered the phone again, and I listened to another competitor suggest that they would be a better partner. Before I left his office, he handed me a stack of all my competitor’s proposals and their sales collateral. He was my client.
Sell with the aim of making clients for life. It is impossible to do this if you don’t communicate frequently or build relationships.
The Foxhole Test
Back to the client that bought from you and has a problem. They are embarrassed in front of their peers. The foxhole test will allow your client to know what kind of salesperson you are. If you are not standing next to your client in the foxhole, it is unlikely you retain your client.
By showing up and taking control of the client’s situation, you prove that you will be there for your client when they need your help. If you don’t answer your phone, you may lose your client forever.
Before Your Client Needs to Change
Over time, the external environment changes, causing clients to change. In that same time, your client’s business may run into obstacles that prevent the results they need. The cadence of your communication must provide you with an awareness of your client’s challenges as they develop. Someone will help your client deal with their problem. It could be you, or you could let someone else take on that role.
One benefit of a modern sales approach is that you keep tabs on what is going on in your client’s world. This allows you to help your client make changes before they are necessary. While I am writing this blog article, I have a link to a news story that will affect my clients (and maybe yours). You want to be the person who can see around corners, knowing what your client will need to address.
When the only time you show up to see your client is when you have a new product to sell, you are treating your client like a wallet from when you need to reach your sales goals.
The Routine Maintenance of a Client
Today in sales, there is a tendency to become transactional. Much of this results from non-tech companies following the way tech companies sell. If you are not a tech company, you should not be structured like one.
You can’t be a consultative salesperson and have transactional relationships. Consultative relationships are expensive in terms of time, attention, and energy. Think of this as routine maintenance that is easier than you might believe.
Even if you have many clients, by making two phone calls a day, you can communicate with 40 of them. Over time, you will know what clients need your time and which ones don’t need as much attention. Some clients will tell you they would like to hear from you monthly. Others may need more frequent follow-up because they need additional help.
Following Up with Existing Clients in B2B Sales
In sales, absence does not make the heart grow fonder; it makes the heart go wander. Leaving this article, list your existing clients and build a communication plan that will help you be there for them when they need you—and before they need you.
By being proactive about your client relationships, you create clients for life. Think of your career as a set of relationships. You know you have created this dynamic when your main contact leaves their company and takes you with them to their new company.
When you acquire a client, talk to them about when you will follow up. In the first follow-up, you should make certain that your client is producing the results you promised when they signed your contract. If you believe that relationships are too expensive to invest in, wait until you discover how expensive it is to not have those relationships.