Your objective for the year should be to acquire and create advocates. Proactively focus on doing the right things to earn their loyalty and they will help grow your business with greater ease and speed.

So has Jill finally lost it? I’m advising professional sales people like you, whose primary mission is to bring in bigger better business each year, that you don’t want more customers!

I am not losing my marbles. I know that you are mandated to, and compensated for, bringing in new customers…

I simply want to shake up your definition of “customer” in a way that will enable you to grow your sales faster. So humor me… and read on.

The Definition of Customer Loyalty

The CEO of one of my US clients in the finance sector proudly cited his company’s enviable 95% customer loyalty factor.

Meaning 95% of his customers continue to do business with his company on an annual basis. Impressive.

After listening to him talk further I had to ask the question, “Do you know what percentage of your customers are truly loyal and how many are simply long-term repeat buyer?”

I wasn’t trying to burst his bubble. His statement had simply got me thinking about the definition of “customer loyalty”.

As an example… my business has used the same phone company since the day I opened my doors.

Despite jaw-dropping financial incentives from their competition over the past 12 years, and enticing “bundling” discounts from my mobile provider, I stubbornly stay true to my original landline provider.

Is the Honeymoon Over?

In their eyes I am a loyal customer. But nothing could be further from the truth.

If anyone were to ask me to recommend this company my response, depending on the day, would range from being downright negative to offering an apathetic, “I guess they’re OK for a phone company.”

I’m satisfied with them when all is running well. But when I hit a technical snag, a billing error or any kind of dissatisfaction that requires me to call into their customer service center my perspective shifts.

The experience is inevitably one that has me ranting with frustration … and usually to myself as I grow old waiting to speak to a human being who, as it turns out, is neither willing nor able to do anything of real value.

So if I feel this way … and I know many of you are head bobbing at this example … why won’t I switch phone companies?

The “F” word of course. Fear. Fear that the “promise” of a seamless transition to the “other guys” will result in the interruption of my business.

Fear that the devil you know is about as good as it gets.

Fear that the promise of perfect service and cost savings will disappear abruptly once the 12-month honeymoon period is over.

So why go through the hassle?

So I’m a long-term customer. I am not, however, loyal.

On a satisfaction scale of 1- 10, I probably fluctuate between 4 and 7.

Is it a Rewarding Relationship?

Like my phone company you have customers all along the satisfaction scale.

At the bottom you’ll find your “opposers”. Thankfully most of us have few, if any, of these.

They derive very little satisfaction from your product/service but, for reasons not unlike those I’ve shared, they continue to do business with you. Some will eventually leave.

Regardless of whether they choose to remain hostages or to leave, they act in opposition to you … making it difficult to foster a mutually rewarding relationship.

And souring others’ opinions of you.

Moving up to the middle of the scale you have customers at varying degrees of satisfaction. I refer to this area as a “rich pool of prospects” for your competition.

Simply put these customers are vulnerable.

It takes one savvy competitor to do a solid job of understanding and acting on their unfulfilled needs, interests and perceived switching costs… and then use this information to position themselves to be a more relevant provider.

The customer leaves … and usually silently, without notice, out the back door.

Vulnerability diminishes as you head up to 9 and 10 on the scale.

Here sit your advocates… the customers that derive so much value from your work that they willingly and publicly support and recommend you.

Advocates are not only nice to have they are integral to accelerated business growth.

Advocates are:

  • Willing to refer you to others to others if you ask … and sometimes when you don’t.
  • An enthusiastic source of high-value testimonials that you can use to build credibility in your sales messages, presentations and proposals.
  • Likely to buy more from you and pay your fair market value.
  • Willing to give you more time and share information that enables you to say ahead of your competitors and be advantageously positioned to win.
  • Forgiving of your boo boos provided you take responsibility and pull out all the stops to minimize the damage.

Advocates are Loyal

Aiming to acquire new customers this year is a fundamental goal. But it’s not enough.

Your objective for the year should be to acquire and create advocates.

Proactively focus on doing the right things to earn their loyalty and they will help grow your business with greater ease and speed.

Plus working with an advocate is a heck of a lot more fun.

Three Questions I Asked My Client:

  1. Realistically what percentage of your customers are loyal (advocates) and what percentage are long-term customers vulnerable to the advances of smart hungry competitors?
  2. What do you need to do to move more of your customers up the satisfaction scale to advocacy?
  3. How are you currently leveraging your existing advocates to identify and connect with qualified new buyers?


About the author

Jill Harrington

Jill Harrington

For over twenty years, Jill Harrington was a globally respected sales leader and executive…

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