Every so often, a salesperson sends me an email to admit that they have waited too long to reach out to their clients. They normally ask me what they should do, since they aren’t exactly sure how to make the call and they are worried about what their client thinks about them. What follows are some thoughts, ideas, and guidelines on what to do in that situation.
What Your Absence Might Mean
You may have waited too long between communications because you are taking your client for granted, or that you feel you are entitled to their business, or that you have grown so comfortable that you have become complacent. A client who attributes your absence to any of these things might be a little miffed at you for ignoring them for so long. Your fear of this result is both normal and rational, but it isn’t the worst possible outcome.
Waiting too long between meetings with your clients, especially if they needed something from you, might result in your client filling your seat with a ferocious competitor, the one that continually tries to eat your lunch, working to displace you and take over what was once your account. When you leave the door open, you make way for someone else to walk right into your client’s life.
You may pay a high price for neglecting your client, one that you could avoid with nothing more than a calendar and a phone.
Mostly, you will find that your contacts greet you warmly, especially if you have built the kind of relationship that would easily withstand a lull in activity for some period. You should not, however, count on that being the case.
What You Should Do Now
Once you realize just how long it’s been since you talked to your client, your knees may start knocking at the thought of having to call them now. It feels weird to make that call now, let’s say seventy-five days after your last communication, and you just don’t want to do it. Here’s the problem: you will not feel any better calling on day seventy-six, or seventy-seven, or seventy-eight.
Without allowing another minute to pass—let alone waiting for the Earth on which you are standing to make another rotation—pick up the phone and call your client. One of the themes you will find throughout this humble blog is the idea that problems don’t age well, and that little monsters grow up to be giant monsters.
You should dispatch these monsters while they are still too small to harm you, lest you find yourself in deeper trouble later. Tragically, the lack of viable time travel technology means that you must do now what you didn’t do when you should have.
Some Ideas About What to Say
First, you want to be apologetic without being maudlin. Your apology should match the harm you caused your client. If your client was not irreparably harmed, then you don’t need to beg forgiveness, though you might want to worry about your sales effectiveness and your value to your clients if they were not harmed at all by your absence.
Try: “I owe you an apology. I have been remiss in not calling you before now.”
Second, for the sake of all that is good and right and true and beautiful and holy in this world, I beg you, please do to try to sell your client your new solution on that call. In fact, don’t try to sell them anything! When you have already behaved as if your client is nothing more than a transaction to you, you don’t want to reinforce that idea. As soon as you say, “I’d like to tell you about our new” whatever, you have undone yourself.
Third, ask for a meeting to catch up on where your client is now, and offer to share some insights that your company has gained over, say, the last two months. Your negligence in not calling your client has reduced the value you provide, so you need to make some deposits to restore the relationship. Look for ways to make a positive difference without being self-oriented—not only is this the fastest way to repair the relationship, but it may be the only strategy available to you.
Institute a Cadence
The best way to prevent the awkward struggle of calling a neglected client is to institute a cadence for communication. Some clients need more frequent communication, while others need fewer touchpoints. Determining how much communication is necessary for you to take perfect care of your clients is a good starting point.
Your CRM is the perfect place to assign yourself cadence tasks, like calling these five clients in thirty days, making the calls, and rescheduling those same tasks for a month later. Your computer’s memory is better than yours, but if you are paranoid about losing your work, print a copy and file it away for safekeeping.
No matter what tools you use, keeping up with your client communications will ensure that you are feeding them new insights and that they are producing the best results possible.
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Filed under: Sales