What would your business be like if you never lost a client to the competition?

Ok. We can’t say you’ll neverlose a client. But by making client retention a priority and making some minor changes to your business and your own habits, you could get close.

Think about your client’s experience with you. Do they sign on the dotted line and then never hear from you again? Do they have to wait for days for a response from you? Do they feel like their needs are considered and are they appreciated for their business and loyalty? Even if you take great care of your clients, there could be more you could be doing to make sure that when they get a shiny new email from a competitor, they’re not tempted to take their business elsewhere.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. On ThinkAdvisor, he offers a long list of steps you can take to help retain your clients. Here are some highlights we think are essential:

  1. Be irritation aware. Little annoyances add up in a client’s mind. Especially if they typically don’t interact with you unless they need something. No response or a slow response, small mistakes made, deadlines missed, things forgotten, being late to a meeting, etc. can all end up creating a feeling that you don’t care about their business.
  2. Exhibit self-confidence. Seeming wishy-washy and unsure of yourself can be a red flag for clients. The key to genuine confidence is product knowledge. Know what you’re selling and if you don’t know, don’t make it up! It’s better to say you don’t know but you will find out than try to fudge the info and get it wrong. You could even get yourself into some serious hot water giving false information.
  3. Be a resource. Keep an eye out for information, new products, better deals, etc. that could help your clients. Then pass along that info so your clients know you’re thinking of their needs and working for them. You don’t want your clients to think there are “out of sight, out of mind” and that you only think of them when a premium is due.
  4. Be a good listener. Graham makes several points that add up to good listening: Don’t talk about yourself. Ask questions. And be attentive. Listen intently. Check on your clients from time-to-time. Ask how they’re doing, what they’ve been thinking about or planning for. A simple phone call and genuine interest could reveal that someone needs event insurance for an upcoming wedding, updated homeowners insurance after a big purchase or remodel, or adjustments in car insurance after a change of commute or shift to working at home.
  5. Anticipate problems. It’s sort of inevitable that there will be an issue or problem come up at some point in your business that could affect your clients. Even if the problem itself is out of your control, you can control how your client learns about it and how they perceive your efforts to make it right. When an issue comes up, be proactive and let your clients know what’s going on as soon as you have a good handle on the situation. If possible, always include what you’re doing to make the situation right and how quickly that can happen. Just as you’re an advocate and resource for your clients when you’re helping them choose the right coverage, they’ll be looking to you to be in their corner when issues arise too.
  6. Express appreciation. This is a simple concept but can be tricky in the world of automated everything. Clients are smart and they know the difference between a mass email and a personal note. While regular emails can keep your name top of mind for your clients, you could also think about sending more personal emails or hand-written notes once a quarter. Keep notes on your conversations with clients so it’s easy to include a line like, “Hope you enjoyed your trip to Hawaii.” Or “Congratulations on the new baby!” Those little personal touches go a long way to show your clients that you appreciate their business and also your relationship.

If you make client retention a priority for your business, you’re sure to see more clients sticking with you year after year. As you’re making your business plans for the new year, think about how you will keep your clients happy and loyal. And don’t forget to ask for referrals. Happy clients can be a great source of even more happy clients.