Why we must always nurture customer relationships

I make it a habit to scan LinkedIn on a regular basis to keep up with what is happening with good clients, potential clients, and colleagues. I recently saw that a very good client and friend had made a major career move. He had been with the same organization, a Fortune 500 company, for over 25 years and I was totally surprised when I heard of his move. As soon as I saw this notice, I sent him a quick congratulatory note and asked, “What happened?”

The next day I got a call. It turns out that he was presented with an incredible opportunity with a young, fast-growing, entrepreneurial company. His skill set was badly needed and he welcomed the chance for a fresh start. Without any prompting from me, he also said that we should connect in the new year about doing business with his new organization.

Here is the point: If I had not made the contact, this future business opportunity may not have ever happened. The message is to continually maintain and nurture customer relationships. On a broader basis, it starts with communicating via a blog, weekly message reminder, or other means of staying in touch.

More specifically, especially with “A” clients, it involves regular get-togethers to continually dive deeper into their organizations. This used to be — and hopefully will be again soon — everything from formal meetings to lunch get-togethers. Today the only getting together is electronic.

As I look at our client list, most of the top 10 have been in that position for many, many years. Yes, there are occasional changes, especially when a major leadership transition has taken place. When a company is sold or merged with another would be two good examples.

On the other hand, if you stay connected with key players at all levels of a client company, you have the ability to quickly pivot with leadership changes because you know everyone. As an example, we have one client that we started working with over 30 years ago. It is a large, family-owned organization with operations in several states. Our original contact has long since retired. We are now dealing with her replacement’s replacement. This track has been repeated multiple times with many companies through the years.

To continue to make this happen, the question comes down to this: How are you viewed by your clients? Are you just another vendor on their list or are you considered an important, trusted advisor? Regardless of how a business relationship starts, long-term success requires that you are always adding value to your client company. I had a colleague many years ago who actually had an office at his number-one client. That was how critically they viewed him — an integral part of their team.

In conclusion, getting new business is always great. The real work happens when you start to grow and nurture that relationship. Best of luck in making that happen!

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