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Loyalty – does it exist?

September 4, 2013

So this summer’s football transfer market has been busier than I can remember. Websites and newsstands are rife with - who’s leaving? Who’s staying? Who’s handed in a transfer request? But also, who has promised the fans that they love their club so much they will never leave? Surely no one actually believes that these mercenaries can be loyal?!
We all know that in football it is just a case of ‘as soon as a bigger team shows interest and doubles a player’s wages’ they will leave.  So then it is ‘bye bye’ old club that I love (pffft), hello to my new club that pays me more than the others would.

So, this got me thinking about loyalty - is there such a thing in football? That is an easy question to answer. No. Where a player plies his trade is determined by how much he can get paid a week and how big the signing on fee will be.
Ok, but is there such a thing as loyalty in business? If I continue to do a great job for my client and make sure that I do everything I can for them, will they stay with me forever?
Well, no because it’s not always as simple as that.  I like to think that when we go the extra mile for clients that it will build up loyalty and a great deal of respect on both sides. However there are still many factors that are out of our control and will lead to your ‘loyal’ customer (that you’ve had for 5 years – taken to watch United, treated to fancy dinners) jumping in to bed with your competitors.
Someone in a more senior position than your contact may decide to switch provider, unaware of your relationship and hard work.  The purchasing department may be squeezing everyone on their costs to improve the bottom line or they may be taken in by a strong salesperson from a competitor.  Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘I fancy a change’. 
A friend of mine (also works in sales) had a bad day recently and was saying “All I ask is be honest with me, we’ve had a great relationship for years, at least let me know why you’re potentially looking to go elsewhere. I’ve done everything you have asked of me and I’ve delivered you results and now you’re turning your back on me".
As a Salesman or Account Manager you do need to feel pain like this. Kind of makes you less naive when it comes to client/supplier loyalty. Also goes to show you that yes it is important to build strong relationships - but you can't control a client's decisions to the extent you want.
I do know that you can certainly limit the possibility of them leaving you. Many people in my position will lose clients purely because they haven’t communicated with them enough. I don’t mean ringing them every day and asking what they did last night. But the odd email or phone call, meet them, finding out personal things, build a relationship (although be aware that some people just don’t like that at all) – this can make a difference.
Your email marketing strategy can help.  Don’t just focus on new prospects. I suppose you could look at it like this….would you go on a good date, have a great time, realise you get on really well, but then not speak to that date again for 12 months and stil lassume that things were going really well?
So is that the key – a good level of engagement with your client? To a degree, yes it is. Investing time and effort to keep them happy, make them feel special, even loved. Most of the time though they’ll be willing to stick with you if you have a strong product, provide a great service and most importantly they have confidence and trust in you to deliver at a good price.

Posted by Paul Latham

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