With new businesses cropping up every day, many wonder how to retain customers in the face of so much competition. The answer doesn’t rely so much on what your business offers, but on how you offer it.

People seem to find it difficult to stay loyal to any single business these days. With so many options out there, businesses must put more effort than ever before into strategizing how to retain customers. Because consumers have so many choices, it’s important that they view your company as the right choice not just for an immediate need but for all relevant future needs as well.

If that sounds like a tall order, take a deep breath. It’s easier than you think! If your product meets the needs of a significant number of people – which most successful products do – you’re already halfway there.

The other component that must be considered when thinking about how to retain customers has to do with relationships.

Most salespeople already know that business is primarily about relationships. The challenging part can be properly tending to all those relationships throughout the sales cycle and beyond. Sales relationships are marathons, not sprints. New leads must be nurtured from the moment they are discovered. And nurturing necessarily requires personal involvement with your customers, viewing them as the people they are, and valuing every interaction as something of significance.

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Personal involvement

In an increasingly digitized world with so much more ability to communicate beyond local markets, expanding businesses can have difficulty maintaining the human element of what they offer. The companies that remain successful are the ones that face that challenge head-on instead of sweeping it under the rug for later.

So, what does personal involvement mean? It’s more than just making your customers feel appreciated. It’s making them feel cared for. When you make a sale, you’re essentially asking someone – oftentimes a complete stranger – to trust you. If you succeed in getting them to do that and then never follow up, you put a crack in that trust. Many cracks will lead to a fractured relationship, which will likely drive your customer to someone else’s business.

This goes beyond calling or e-mailing your clients to check in. Take them out to lunch or meet for coffee. Talk to them about themselves. Make time to visit face-to-face. You don’t need to have an agenda for these meetings; in fact, it may be better if you don’t. Connect with your audiences on the human level first and connecting with them on the business level will become all the more valuable (not to mention easier).

Customers are people first

It’s easy to forget about how to retain customers and think instead about how much revenue those customers have already generated. But a relationship will never work if both parties don’t view each other as human before anything else. That can be hard to do since so many inquiries come through e-mail or text message or webpages. It’s not uncommon for some sales to close without the customer and salesperson ever meeting one another. While this is great for the expediency and growth of business, the human component can suffer.

Don’t use automatic e-mail responders unless it’s to notify someone that you’ll be out of the office. Return all phone calls and e-mails, even if some of them seem irrelevant. In general, don’t use technology where you can use yourself. The customer has built a relationship with you, not the technologies that no doubt make your life easier. However helpful those technologies may be, they can’t nurture a relationship for you.

Valuable interactions

Turning off some technologies and giving your customers more personal attention will only work if you value the interactions you’ve engaged in the first place. It’s easy for things like staying in touch with customers to become tedious and repetitive, but if they sense that you’re not truly invested in them, you run the risk of creating another crack in their trust.

If you schedule a face-to-face meeting, whether it be casual or business-related, make it a priority. (In other words, don’t cancel or show up late.) Respond in a timely fashion and with language that doesn’t sound like a form letter. Refer them to other businesses if you can’t meet their needs – it shows them you’re more interested in what they want than what you want. Treat staying in touch as a privilege, not a formality. You don’t have to communicate often, but when you do, it has to count.

Act natural

It seems a silly thing to say when talking about how to retain customers, but being yourself is going to get you a lot farther than any other sales tactic you might use. If you act like yourself, people will sense it and they will trust you more for it. Gone are the days of slick-talking salesmen and swag (though keeping some of the latter on hand won’t hurt). People want to connect with other people in all facets of their lives, especially those that involve their personal finances.

There are seemingly endless tips and tricks on how to retain customers. However, none of them will work if you don’t first nurture the relationships you’ve built. Is it a lot of work? Yes. But it will pay off in the end, not only in dollars and cents, but in the size, scope, and success of your business.

lead-managerlead-managerSimplify your sales process now. Schedule a free demo of our lead management software and turn prospects into customers in no time!

How do you nurture the relationships you have with your leads and customers? Let us know in the comments.