Customer Retention: The People Element

Matching the right sales people to your customers can be the most effective weapon in the war for customer retention.


What’s the single biggest reason why you need to have a serious customer care attitude? Simple – the amount of money companies spend on marketing and advertising to acquire just one new customer far outweighs what it costs to keep your existing customers.

Really successful sales managers recognise that you need to match the right sales people to your customers. That’s why you have to segment the customer base so that you can be sure that the effort and cost you are dedicating is worth the return – it’s an exercise that should include all accounts, from the biggest to the smallest.

Traditionally, the level of business concluded with a customer dictates how much time, effort and money you should be prepared to put in. Companies generally segment customers depending on profitability, spend or types of product, and they then align the service they offer accordingly. They segment their sales team to ensure that their best people handle their top clients. It’s all about business size, volumes and profitability.

Levels of influence

However, in my experience, it’s not always just about how much the customer buys. It can be a strategic move to structure your sales team according to the level of influence your customers have in the market. You may, for example, be dealing with an individual who is a member of an industry institute or association, and whose authority is substantial, even if their total spend is not that big.

This is the human side of the business. As a sales leader, you need to identify which customers require an extraordinary type of relationship because of their sway in your market. These individuals have an influential platform and no matter how demanding they may be, every effort needs to be made to accommodate them so that they become allies and not opponents.

Thought leadership

It’s advisable to hold both formal and informal discussions with your clients. These can function as intensive market research exercises, even though they may not be framed that way.

Get your senior people together with the client to discuss what is happening in their sector, what advice they have for your business in terms of products and services, and where they see growth and opportunity. Then take that collective knowledge and put it into a newsletter or even a white paper and distribute it to your clients. This can turn you into a thought leader, which means you own your space.

Staying ahead

In the process of having these high-level discussions, clients tell you what they want, which may sometimes be quite different from what you think they want.

This is a great way to start thinking about new products and services that you should be offering and also enables you to enhance your existing offerings, all of which improve customer retentions.

Interestingly, these discussions can also lead you to provide solutions beyond what you thought your business was even capable of, giving you the chance to gain major competitive advantage.

Remember the users

At the other end of the relationship scale, you should be monitoring not only who buys your products, but also who uses them. Focusing on the users and ensuring that they understand your product in its entirety and what it can do for them has massive value. Managers want employees to be content as that makes them more productive. Getting them to be loyal to your product can help to ensure a high level of retention.

By having influence from operations all the way up to the strategic decision-making level hedges your bets and enables you and your team to manage and influence all the players.

To control costs at the lower end of the customer base, it’s worth creating a contact cycle comprised of a few different elements. At KreditInform, for example, we made telephone contact with people at different levels in the customer organisation, we held special events for the people who used our products, and we hosted conferences for the people at the top who bought our products.

Again, because we had positioned ourselves as the thought leaders in our space, those people wanted to be associated with us and attend our forums.

Ultimately, to keep a customer for life, position them correctly in respect of their peers, get to know their personalities and who needs special attention. Remember that people are seldom neutral: They are either for you or against you. Intimate customer knowledge and the matching of specific sales people to specific customers will enable you to meet the level of service that customers expect in the best way possible.