How to Manage Customer Relationships After Closing Deals
You’ve put your best game face on. Made promises. Let your winning personality shine through. Sold every benefit in the book. And then it finally happens—you shake hands with the client and close the deal.
It’s the kind of victory that leaves that sweet aftertaste of success in your mouth.
But no matter how much you might be tempted to bask in after effects of its glow, the truth is that your work has only just begun.
The sale is only the start of it all. Next up is the hardest part—keeping the client happy and delivering on all the benefits and perks promised.
When it comes to sales, the true test comes after the customer signs on the dotted line. Putting to play some best practices after your client is on board will help you keep them happy long after the ink on that contract dries.
Set The Right Expectations
Expectations set the cadence for your client-vendor relationship. If the client has one set of expectations and you have another, dissatisfaction and disaster are inevitable.
To avoid that kind of a nightmare scenario, make sure you and your client are on the same page on the expectations. This is particularly important if you’re executing a project or doing some work as a result of a contract.
A smart way to do this is by spelling out the scope of the project clearly in the form of a contract or official document.
Having a defined structure from the get-go will make your client feel like he is in good hands. But it also offers you a great opportunity to spell out expectations early on during the onboarding process.
Usually, the best way to convey these expectations to the client is by hopping on a call. This way, you can verbally reiterate what the client has already read or seen in a contract or your onboarding document. Plus you’re also giving them a chance to ask questions.
If you choose to have a call, make sure you invite the key stakeholders and decision makers.
It’s important that you speak directly to stakeholders at all levels of the client organization directly, and avoid miscommunication.
The person organizing the call should be clear on one point: now is the time to be transparent about what the customer can realistically expect, not the time to pitch your product and sell it.
Another best practice worth noting is this: under-promising and over-delivering is the way to go.
If the client asks a question you’re uncertain about, don’t hesitate to tell them so. Promise to follow up and get back to them with a clear response as soon as possible.
Once you set expectations correctly, you can expect less confusion and disheartened statements along the lines of “But I thought ABC,” and “We assumed XYZ….”
Listen To Their Frustrations
The sale is closed and expectations are set. That means everything’s smooth sailing from now on, right?
That’s very rarely ever the case. Surprises pop up, things go wrong, and sometimes projects are derailed or come to a halt thanks to the craziest setbacks. What makes or breaks a customer experience is how you handle the situation.
Handle it well and it’ll work in your favor. Do the opposite and you’ll likely see the effects pop up in non-favorable ways.
For instance, research shows that after just one negative customer service experience, 51% of customers will never do business1 with that organization ever again.
That’s why, when a customer is frustrated and complains, listen to him.
Keeping your ears and mind open can go a long way in these situations. Most people just want someone in a position of authority who can hear them out and understand their viewpoint. Kind of like a friend who’s annoyed and needs to vent out some frustration.
Once the customer has finished venting or complaining, make sure you acknowledge their feelings and apologize.
A simple statement like this can go a long way: “I’m so sorry you had to experience XYZ. I’m sure that must have been frustrating and we’re very sorry this happened.”
It sounds easy enough, but sometimes when another party is venting, it’s hard not to get caught up in our own emotions and let reasoning and logic fly out the door. As difficult as it may be, it’s important to keep your emotions contained.
Once you’ve acknowledged and apologized, it’s time to make amends. Could you offer a discount? Add another project manager to prevent deliverables from falling through the cracks? Get on a call more frequently with the customer to make sure they’re satisfied going forward?
Figure out what would work best for the situation.
Lastly, take action. Don’t assume that just because the client is calm, it’s okay to sit back and relax. Act to fix the problem that caused their frustration, and figure out ways to prevent similar ones in the future.
The deal is signed. The client is silent. You might take no noise to mean good noise, but don’t assume anything. No matter how good things might appear from your perspective, remember it’s not your opinion that matters. Instead, reach out to the client to see what they think.
Before you do, though, make sure you understand what your company believes to be an acceptable level of satisfaction. How satisfied should your client be on a scale of one to ten?
For instance, your company goal might be a nine or ten. Knowing that, you can approach the client to find out where they sit on that scale.
Or you could skip the guesswork and just ask them. Surveys are a great way to do this.
If you’re serious about getting candid feedback, you might even consider having a third party anonymously conduct the survey for you.
In any case, make sure surveys are brief and easy to understand to avoid discouraging customers from participating. Once you collect feedback, compare the results against what you thought your performance was like.
How far off the mark were you in your guess? Which areas did you perform well in? Where can you improve?
Create a game plan for improvement.
Also, make sure you’re not selfish with this feedback. Share it freely with people in your organization who could benefit from it and support future changes based on it. The last thing you want is to take that information and do little or nothing with it.
Bad customer experiences catch up with you sooner or later. In fact, according to New Voice Media, U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion every year2 because of poor customer service.
If your company is large, it’s not uncommon that the person who initially sold the product or service may hand the client over to an account manager.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for the salesperson to occasionally check in with the client, even if it’s just to say hello or see how things are going. After all, he was the one responsible for gaining the client’s trust enough to earn their business.
In the meantime, the account manager or person responsible for the customer relationship, should take every opportunity to keep in touch with the client.
Going radio silent once the deal is done is never a good idea, even if things are going well. Continue to give the client product updates and bring them up to speed on other offerings they might be interested in.
In customer relationships, the best way to show you care is by communicating. This statement holds true particularly when the client is new. Because new relationships, overall, lack the confidence that only time can bring.
It’s kind of like wading into murky waters, blindfolded. The customer is knee deep into something new and doesn’t know yet whether they can trust you to keep them safe and afloat. The tighter you hold their hand and give them confidence, the more they’ll trust you and relax.
In business, that hand holding happens in the form of communication.
Effective communication also lets you be proactive rather than be reactive with problems that can otherwise worsen over time.
While you’re busy being communicative, don’t forget to ensure you’re transparent. If you failed in some aspect, acknowledge that, even if a part of you is hoping the client will never find out. Don’t risk it by trying to bury it under the rug or cover it up.
Transparency makes for greater trust down the road. If the customer gets the sense that you’re not being forthright, they’re less likely to trust you—or do future business with you.
What’s The Point Of It All?
You’re putting in the legwork, spending a lot of time and effort on customer service after that deal. But what’s the reward for all this effort? How does it help you in the long run?
The good news is, there’s more than just one answer to that question. In fact, there are multiple benefits to putting the focus on the customer once the deal is signed, sealed, and delivered.
First, when a client is satisfied with you, they’re more likely to trust you when you try to sell them bigger, more profitable products. For instance, if you’ve done a great job maintaining the relationship with them being on product A, they’ll be more likely to trust you and buy product A+.
This drives profits, simply because you did a good job developing loyalty and a sound customer relationship. It’s probably one of the easiest ways to get more money in your company’s pocket with minimal effort.
Second, when a customer is satisfied with your service, they’re more likely to boast about you to others in their network.
They’re also more likely to send referrals your way, which is the equivalent of free advertising for your company. To encourage them, you can offer referral bonuses.
Lastly, keeping your customers happy is just good business sense. According to the Harvard Business Review, it’s approximately 5 to 25 times pricier3 to win new customers than it is to keep old ones.
So if you truly want to make a positive impact on your company’s bottom line, give more value, attention, and care to the clients you currently have rather than constantly racing and focusing on acquiring new ones.
In A Nutshell
If sales is a three-ring circus, then think of deal closing as only the first act. It’s not until after the closing that the true test begins. How you manage a client relationship after the customer is on board is what makes all the difference.
Treat them with care and respect and they’ll stay. Ignore, neglect, or mistreat them, and they’ll leave.
Following simple key steps like having a formal onboarding plan, talking to the client, listening to them, getting real feedback, and setting the right expectations from the onset are the key factors to a successful and fruitful long-term relationship.
Sure, it’s a lot of work, but these efforts can have a great long-term impact on your bottom line. You’ll have opportunities to upsell, gain referrals, and retain current customers, all of which can help your business grow and see more profits.
Remember, it’s the simple things that build customer loyalty and encourage customers to trust you with future business.
1 – https://www.vonage.com/business/perspectives/the-62-billion-customer-service-scared-away-infographic/
3 – https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers