Retaining Clients - Results Results Results - The Answer in All Stages of Client Retention
Once you've won a new client, it's important next to consider some concepts of client retention and the "stages" at which client retention is at risk. There are points in the client engagement where a client is likely to quit the coaching or consulting relationship. In order to retain clients, you need to understand these stages and give the client what they most need - results at every stage.
1. The most critical stage is in the earliest appointments of the engagement.
At this time, the client is still unsure and tenuous, and liable to bolt in fear of having made a bad choice to work with you. Some salesmanship type courses would tell you to reassure them about their choice. Such reassurances - based on nothing but words - can ring false, fail to settle the relationship, or deeply reassure the client.
What works is helping the client have quick and obvious results - especially results in response to the client's stated desires. Your best client retention tool is to know specifically what results a client seeks in each session and to deliver those results. Doing this, especially in the first few sessions, gives the client a feeling of security, and confidence that their choice to work with you was a sound one.
2. The next stage where client retention becomes an issue is when the client hits challenges (often including financial).
At that point, they will weigh the cost and benefits of working with you, and look for "reasons" to leave the working relationship. At this point, they have invested a substantial amount (to them) of time and money to work with you. Some of the areas they will examine will be
* What results have I gotten for my money?
* Has this person failed me in any way?
* Is this going to be too hard or too much work for me?
* Has this person been unlikable in any way (non-supportive, unpleasant, not understanding)?
Any one of these issues or areas can be the cause for a client to quit working with you - if you don't understand what is going on. They've hit a challenge, and need help moving through it. Often coaches and consultants respond by giving advice and recommendations.
You're better off going into extreme listening mode and questioning with great finesse. The questions must be few, highly targeted, and generously larded with true listening. This is what will assist the client to breakthrough and discovery. At this stage, this is what will deliver results to the client. Do not make the mistake of letting the interaction devolve into chatting, complaints, or a "pity party". You need an astute balance of directed questioning, along with profound listening and a firm guiding hand to move the client to their own discovery.
3. The next client retention stage comes anytime that the relationship veers toward "same old, same old".
The client questions whether or not they've gotten all from you that is to be gotten. What needs to happen is a constant and consistent expansion of the client's vision of possibility. Anytime you see they may be reaching a plateau, ask challenging questions about what is next for them. Don't be "pushy" about it. That will create resistance and feel like your agenda rather than theirs. Instead these challenges are gentle (of course this depends on client personality and needs) and open-ended to elicit deep thought from the client.
There's no rush or intensity to begin something new but rather an expansion of potentialities to be considered. It's an invitation for the client to look at alternative futures. Rather than allowing a client's ennui to cause them to terminate the working relationship, stay one step ahead of them at all times. That creates value for them and you retain the client.
Understand these stages of client retention, and keeping clients will no longer be a business problem. Give them what they need at every client retention stage and you will become expert at retaining clients.
By Suzi Elton
Photography by Yuri Acurs
Suzi Elton provides business writing that attracts targeted prospects to your service business and converts them into clients for you. She is a Robert Middleton Certified Action Plan Marketing Coach, as well as a professional writer. Her website offers a free series of 8 assessments you can use to analyze your own site. To learn about her Robert Middleton style Web Site Tool Kit Writing Package, go to http://www.wowfactorwriting.com/services/web-site-tool-kit-package/