MY COMMENTS IN BOLD.
5) Little Expertise and Influence: You never bring new ideas anymore. Sure, you’ll drop off a white paper or hit your talking points. But you quit being curious—asking questions, clarifying, and making observations—long ago. You just assume nothing has changed. Worse, you can’t seem to make anything happen. When you wined and dined your customer, you positioned your team as go-getters who “make things happen.” Now, they wait while everything is run up and down the chain.
Your customers expect you to stay current, to act as a consultant who can provide unbiased advice and direction. Often they view you as an extension of their organization, if not one of their employees. There’s just one caveat: They expect you to be better. That means you must answer one question: “Did I make my customer more money today?” To do that, always be thinking critically about the dynamics of their industry, customers, and operation. And make sure you have the resources and authority to move quickly.
I liken curiosity to intelligence. Even though intelligence encompasses so much more, curiosity is such a key part of intelligence. If you quit being curious, you need to reevaluate things in your professional and personal life. If you quit providing the service you once provided, again, it’s time for some self-assessment. Are you too tired to care – is it just about the paycheck? Are you being true & loyal to yourself and to your customers?
6) Always Trying to Sell Something: You dropped in with no advance notice. You wanted to see how things were working and how you could improve, or so you said. But then you launched into that cheesy sales pitch on your latest solution (when you haven’t debugged the last one). They sense urgency, even desperation, in your arm twisting. So they grow quiet and look for an opening to politely usher you out. They see right through your shtick: This visit is all about you, not them.
People love buying but hate being sold to. They’re uncomfortable with making decisions or saying “no” to an old friend. And there’s nothing worse than selling under false pretenses. Sure, you may have their best interests at heart. From their side, they see you as just trying to goose your monthly billable. So don’t make every contact about selling more. Instead, focus on gathering intelligence and building goodwill until the right time comes along.
Well said. Sometimes, it’s not about the sale or business opportunities but about gathering opportunities and about gathering intelligence, & building goodwill. You need to have trust in your business and your business model. If you do these things right, you’ll increase the chance that the selling opportunity will present itself at some point.
7) Don’t Make Them Feel Special: Whatever happened to the romance? Long ago, you’d surprise your customers with gifts for no reason. You’d take them out for dinner and shower them with personal attention. You were there when they were at their weakest, always quick with a kind word, quip, and helping hand. Now the only surprises entail unwelcome changes and repairs. And you’re always too distracted and hurried to visit with them. No, they’re picking up a vibe. Your people aren’t doing what you love. They want to be somewhere else. Early on, your customers were drawn to your passion. Now they seem to love your products more than your people do.
Over time it’s easy to sour on your work and take your relationships and past success for granted. Sure, your customers’ $25,000 billable may look like just another spreadsheet row. But it’s probably a big investment to them. Show your gratitude by spending the extra time to keep the relationship personal. Always reinforce—over a meal, handwritten note, or small token—that they’re on your mind and their business is valued. If you don’t, the competition eventually will. Most important, readjust your outlook. While you may be going through the motions, your customers are the collateral damage. Don’t sell them out.
Special outings or events for your current & prospective clients help your brand & help your customer feel special. Call your clients when you can, just to say hello and see if they need anything. A phone call about a new product or opportunity might go a long way to building or repairing the relationship.
Email is fine, especially if it’s not the primary source of communication. Monthly or bi-monthly emails using a distribution list might be helpful to keep your clients informed on related materials.
8) Try to Be All Things to All People: You wanted to branch out and capitalize on new opportunities. So you invested in the personnel and capabilities—only to discover you were trying to be something you’re not. In between, you ignored the core competencies, culture, and service that originally attracted your customers to you. You forgot the fundamentals and became mediocre, or worse, across the board.
As years pass, organizations evolve. They shift priorities and take risks that sometimes don’t pan out. Whether you’re fighting for market share or survival, never turn your attention away from your existing customers. They are your foundation and advocates, the ones who stand by you in good times and bad. And the state of these relationships is the mirror image of your organization’s health.