BUILDING BUSINESS THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS
The Power of Partnerships: Your Key to Greater Client Satisfaction, Referrals, and Retention
by Denise Trifiletti
In my last column, I explained how partnerships in business can be the key to increasing sales, margins and profits. This article takes the next step by discussing how to increase client satisfaction and retention, obtain business referrals, and increase your client revenues through the power of partnerships.
First, you know it is a tough world out there, and you face a lot of competition. Your competition is knocking on your clients' doors and seeking the same returns that you are looking for. In view of this fact, it only makes sense for you to forge as many strategic business partnerships as you possibly can. This is already a strategy of virtually every one of the Fortune 500 companies—why not a strategy for you?
A "Power Partnership" in business is one in which you and your partner leverage each other's talents for the benefit of both. It is a partnership in which you leverage what you each bring to the marketplace in order to add value for your respective clients. Let's explore this from the perspectives of client satisfaction, referral business, and client retention.
- Client satisfaction: An axiom of business is that a satisfied client is "gold in the attic." Another axiom is that every client has the potential to become dissatisfied with your products and services. Never assume client satisfaction. Remaining client-centric and keeping in close contact with your clients is key. Continuously ask and learn about their changing needs—then meet them, either through your own products and services, or through those of your Power Partners.
Present your value proposition clearly and frequently, and measure your progress with your clients. Do you have an ongoing client feedback process? Do you have a written tool to capture quantitative and qualitative data about how you are addressing your clients' needs? Do you solicit feedback about what they like most about your products or services, and in what areas you can improve your offerings? Do you ask about their greatest challenges and the ways in which their businesses have changed so you can continually and creatively find ways to add value and provide solutions to their problems? Do you satisfy their needs by referring your clients to your Power Partners if you cannot solve those problems on your own?
- Client referrals: How often do you ask your clients for referrals? Do you have a scheduled process and system for doing so? What if you combine your feedback and referral process? If your clients are highly satisfied with what you do for them, that's surely the time to ask for a referral. How about asking for a referral when you first establish your business relationship, during the "honeymoon period"?
How much is a qualified referral worth to you? If you are maintaining excellent client satisfaction, and continuously assisting your clients in growing their businesses and meeting their objectives, they will be delighted to share the great news of the results they are gaining with you! They will be your champions, your ardent fans—and you will be amazed at just how many referrals you can garner. If you refer your clients to your quality Power Partners, your clients will be even more satisfied, and so will your referral partner, resulting in an "all-win" situation! Here is some food for thought: If you are highly successful in giving and receiving quality referrals, and those referrals in turn become the source of more referrals, how much business could you handle?
- Client retention and revenues: How much is your average client worth revenue-wise on an annual basis? What is your average retention (i.e., how long does an average client do business with you)? What if you could double the lifetime of your client relationships? That additional retention could increase your revenues by 10, 20, or even 50%. If your network of Power Partners helps you by providing solutions for your clients, you are differentiated as a "value-added" solution provider in the marketplace.
Would these strategies allow you to realize increases in client satisfaction, retention, referrals, and revenues?
Denise Trifiletti, a business coach and an accomplished leader in the fields of sales and training, is the co-founder of Dynamic Destiny Partnerships, LLC and the founder of Women's Community, LLC. Her most recent book is Create the Business Breakthrough You Want: Secrets and Strategies of the World's Greatest Mentors (Mission Publishing, 2004). Denise can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.