How to Get Repeat Business
Being successful is not just about getting the first “yes”. This article is not about getting a person to say “yes” the first time. It is about the client saying “yes” multiple times. This is how we get repeat business and establish long term client relationships. This articles is also not about how to “wow” big clients, to the point where you cannot spend time on new clients. It is about being appropriate in the relationship with the client.
People buy because they cannot supply it themselves. Peak performing sales people then build on this with the conviction that they themselves are the best people to buy from. They not only know, but demonstrate as well, that they do it in a way that is best for the customer. That they will both win from the transaction. This is the first “yes.”
But how do we get the the second “yes”, and the third? In other words: what is the secret to retaining the client for repeat business? Over about 15 years I have concluded that at least three things are an immense help in getting repeat business: the sales person, meeting the second cluster of criteria, and the quality of the relationship.
Research in the Schuitema group, verified by work in 28 countries, has me convinced that giving, rather than taking, is a big contributor to success. Particularly as a sales person, when you are experienced as adding more value to another than you get out they will keep coming back.
We have seen this play out in team and personal excellence. We have seen this in all the industries we consult in: manufacturing, pharmaceutical, mobile data, insurance, banking, etc. We have also learned that giving in the world of selling, is about being generous and courageous.
The sales person is not necessarily a nice person. Yes, they would be generous in caring for the client by giving time, giving advice, “holding the client’s hand.” In very good sales people however you must also expect to find courage. This is where the salesperson is not “nice,” but they are appropriate in their giving to the client. The courageous sales person puts themselves on the line: their decision in what and how to give. They risk their reputation, risk putting strain on an amicable relationship, risk that the client becomes extremely resistant. They are prepared to risk because it is right for the client. A good sales person acts for the best interest of the client.
The second cluster of criteria.
The decision about what is important in a business relationship that stretches over time and is not static. See the article about customer engagement. Criteria for meeting client expectations will always shift as time passes. The initial contract/agreement captures the first set of criteria. These include who will do what, under what conditions, for what purpose and what will happen if one of the parties don’t?
The minute that contract is signed however, what matters then is the nature of the relationship. Doing research for a bulk moving company for instance, the criteria that was common to their clients were captured by the acronym: RRETT. It stands for reliability, responsiveness, empathy, tangible (i.e. visible) and timeousness. These criteria were critical when they discussed repeat- or added business. During their discussions of solutions to problems, or considered alternative options for work, the RRETT-criteria were very important.
Meeting the expectations of the (changing) second set of criteria, is make-or-break for repeat business. This does mean that a constant update of what is important to the client is essential, not optional.
Quality of the Relationship.
If one thought of what happens in the long-term relationship, it is no surprise that the expectations from the client will change. If the relationship is good, you will be aware of these changes and can accommodate them. This will result in the client would be a good business partner. When the relationship is not good, it becomes a strained relationship. One example of the RRETT will show this.
Set out graphically, the effect of the score (percentage on the vertical scale) on the RRETT –index and relationship with the service provider is:
In a relationship with a low engagement, tending towards adversarial, it is obvious that this relationship would not last. Also, it will not be good for the business, or to the benefit of the client since the two parties will play win-lose rather than win-win.
A way to think of the quality of the relationship is to think of it as an emphasis on the process by which the service is given. It is as if there has been a shift away from emphasising goals, to paying good attention to the process. The quality of the relationship that goes into the delivery is a variable for success. In Schuitema, we refer to this dimension of team excellence as: “suspending my own agenda.” This is where courage in the giving comes into play: to give generously and appropriately.
Repeat business is the client being trusting and courageous. Given the evidence of the right relationship, and the success to which they have been empowered, the client is prepared to repeat, and even expand, the contract.