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Topics Covered: <a href='/resources/search/?query=current accounts'>current accounts</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Sales'>Sales</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=repeat business'>repeat business</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Customer loyalty'>Customer loyalty</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=client'>client</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=customer'>customer</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=retention'>retention</a>
Sales Leadership
May 16, 2013 | The Canadian Professional Sales Association lock

Keeping customers loyal and retaining their business is the key to building a strong foundation for the remainder of your sales efforts. Loyalty can be both difficult and elusive to maintain in a world full of accessible choices. If your customers’ expectations are not met or business relationships decline, they can and will shop for other options. However, a loyal customer can mean years of ongoing revenue for your business.

Tactics for trying to retain customers vary widely. Here are some common ones that businesses attempt that may not always be particularly relevant or effective:

Myth 1: More follow-up calls lead to more engagement.

Following up with your customer is certainly crucial to developing a strong relationship over time, however a higher quantity of follow-ups may not necessarily add to this experience.  Consider the quality, type of follow-up, and purpose behind each follow-up before blindly calling your customers. As you get to know your customer, you should be able to gauge what kind of interaction they prefer – some may feel that calls are too invasive without first being scheduled, while others may ignore your e-mails. Identify which type of interaction will work best for each customer.

Likewise, make sure that you have a distinct purpose behind each call or e-mail. Are you trying to get feedback on product satisfaction? Are you trying to share a resource or referral you think the customer will find useful? Are you trying to highlight some additional value services that will benefit your customer? If you yourself are clear on the purpose of your call, and stick to it, your customer will more likely be able to see the value of your call.

Myth 2: Promotional products sent to customers keep your brand top of mind.

Having pens, calendars, or the myriad merchandise options with your logo on it can make you proud of your brand. But are these promotional products actually effective at getting customers to remember you when they have a need?

Consider this: promotional products are about you and do not necessarily create an emotional connection for the buyer. They are usually generic and, chances are, that your customers have received so many similar products that they may be storing them out of sight in a drawer somewhere -- which defeats the purpose of keeping your brand top of mind.

Instead, send fewer gifts to high-value clients, but when you do, make them memorable by connecting them to interactions you’ve had with them. For example, if you had a conversation with your customer about how they love hiking, you can get a good quality piece of hiking gear as a thank-you for being a loyal customer.

Keep in mind that gifts should not be a focus in a relationship with a customer. You don’t want them forming a dependency on these perks instead of the valuing your actual products and services.

Myth 3: Rewards programs motivate customers to spend more money.

Reward programs have become popular to incentivize customers to spend more money in exchange for points or other rewards. The idea seems logical, however, the problem is that a customer only has so much attention, and it can become a hassle to carry around yet another rewards card. The marketplace is saturated with such programs from restaurants to office supply stores to airlines.

The spirit of rewarding customers is a good idea. An alternative could be to partner with an existing successful rewards program, rather than creating your own. Likewise, you can reward customers in many other ways such as offering thank-you discounts off their next purchase or a free service, etc. These kinds of rewards can be more effective in the long run towards true relationship-building.

Myth 4: Customer surveys allow more focus on customer needs.

Surveys are a great way to garner feedback on customer satisfaction, and could provide insight into customer needs. But not all surveys will actually provide this kind of information. Consider the accessibility of your survey: Are the questions biased in some way? Is your survey available in a format that most customers will be likely to respond to? Is your survey easy to complete?

Depending on the situation and the way your survey is framed, only those who are satisfied might respond to the survey, or vice versa. Make sure you use multiple platforms to get your survey out to different kinds of customers (social media, website, e-mail), based on the communication methods they may be most familiar with.

Also, feedback will only lead to a greater focus on customer needs if there is a standardized process for collecting feedback and doing something with it. For example, survey feedback should not be the only kind of feedback that is taken seriously; make sure that there is a standardized way that feedback given to sales people or customer service is logged and analyzed. Don’t forget to share the results of your surveys and the changes that came about as a result with your customers. This is a crucial step to showing them that they are being heard. You will definitely get more honest feedback if they see this to be true.

Customer-Retention Requires Intentionality

Customers have learned to tune out noise. What does get through is authentic connections and personal help. This may require doing more for fewer people. However, the reward for a loyal customer translates to referrals and lower cost of sales from repeat business. Thus, these tactics can help you become more purposeful and effective with your customers.

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Recommended Reading:
- Don’t Drop the Ball on Current Accounts During High Turnover
- Protect Your Customer Base: 3 Strategies for Retaining Your Most Profitable Accounts
- Keeping Your Clients Loyal - Nine Questions You Need Answered

View more sales articles from CPSA’s Knowledge Centre.

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