When did you last speak to your Top 5 customers?

Customers; are they really all that?

Sometimes when you’re running a business it’s easy to get caught up in the daily ‘noise’ of unending activity. Occasionally this can lead to you overlooking some of the things that are very important in terms how you got to where you are now.

By this, in particular, I mean your customers. Yes, they really are ‘all that’.

I’ve seen this many times; if you ask an owner how much they appreciate the business they get from their top customers they will immediately gush with enthusiasm and regale me with stories and anecdotes of how these customers really ‘make a difference’ to their respective organisations. Ok, it’s great that you know this, but do they?

Manage the future

Customer relationships (and their management) are an absolutely critical part of growing and maintaining a business. It’s really easy, as the business keeps coming in, to forget that without these large/important customers you might have some serious problems.

When you think about it, on average it costs a lot of money to acquire a new customer. All that marketing, sales and service activity has a direct cost to bear on your business, but in lots of cases business owners just focus on the revenue and ignore the rest. If you risk losing a big customer you risk throwing away all the hard work it took to acquire them. That’s just madness.

But am I scaremongering a little here? No, not really.

There’s a great quote that aptly handles this scenario;

‘If you don’t look after your customers someone else will’

I think this is true, but let’s give it a little context and perspective. The fact is, you may honestly believe that you do take care of your customers and that they are (generally) very happy. I believe you. However, relationship management is about more than just contacting them when either they or you need something. It’s about making sure the relationship is working as it should do most of the time and that expectations are managed.

I’ve had lots of conversations with business owners who don’t pay enough attention to this and it genuinely does have an impact over time.

It’s all about You

For example, if you have a large customer that you do a lot of business with that you don’t have any active intention of seeing or talking to until it’s time to pick up your next order, then think again. This is not how to manage this customer’s relationship with your business. And, by the way, I’m talking about when you speak to them, not any of your staff as I’m assuming contact will happen with them on a regular basis as they’re a large customer.

No, it’s really important that you reach out and meet/talk to these important contacts on a regular basis when there is no other agenda or reason to do so. This way you can create a better relationship without them thinking that there is some ulterior motive for you contacting them ‘out of the blue’ (as perhaps happens now) when something needs to happen to smooth a deal situation.

‘No agenda’ calls/lunches/dinners should happen on a regular basis with all your top-level customers and should be instigated by you and performed by you alone. This way your customers will not only understand how valuable their business is to you (as, hopefully, you’ll tell them) but they’ll also be less likely to move away from you as you take so much care to look after them.

What you’ll also find from this exercise is that it’s a two-way street. As your contacts begin to trust and rely upon you, they will also start to provide updates and other valuable information about what’s going on or about to happen within their organisations, all of which you should find very helpful when it comes to planning future business with them.

So, look after your customers. Personally make time to engage with them with ‘no agenda’ on a regular basis. Trust will grow, information will flow, and you’ll be glad you did. Also, you’ll be less likely to encounter a nasty surprise in the long-term.


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