From customer service to customer success

Question: When should you tell your “significant other” that you love them?

Answer: Before someone else does.

The same basic principle holds true for your clients and customers. Your best clients really are your competitor’s best prospects. That’s why every business owner, and sales professional, should include specific customer success behaviors in their account plan to maximize the client onboarding experience, build and protect the relationship, expand the account and generate repeat business and referrals. This is not a “customer service” issue, it’s a “customer success” issue.

Here are five powerful behaviors you can build into your account plan to support better, more profitable and more loyal business relationships.

Leverage client onboarding for customer success. Don’t let the marketing, and sales, process end with the contract. Demonstrate your appreciation for their business by ensuring the client is set up for success. Show up for any, and every, onboarding meeting and make sure the client/customer is getting what they need. Look for ways to head off any challenges, or bottlenecks, that could affect their ability to solve their problem. Being there for the onboarding discussion and contributing to it, supports the relationship by making it clear that you’re not just in this for the short term.

Keep a “fuzzy file” to build the relationship. Use a customer relationship management system, like HubSpot, to keep track of important dates, and information, that will give you a reason to reach out to your contact. Make sure you are connected on LinkedIn with each buyer, as well as with the company, and put any relevant information into a “fuzzy file” in a sales enablement platform. You should also keep track of assets that can help your contact like relevant white papers, blogs, podcasts or other information. Share these resources with your clients so you stay top-of-mind and continue to bring value throughout the year.

Run quarterly value review meetings. One of the keys to keeping your clients happy enough to not run off with the competition is to conduct a QVR. Your buyer’s world changes every 90 days and these meetings enable you to make sure you are still working on their most important challenges. It is important to involve everyone in this meeting, from the sales and delivery team, but also the C-level, influencers and other stakeholders from the buyer’s side as well.

Ask for referrals and expansion business. If your QVR goes well, you’re looking at a perfect opportunity to ask for introductions to other departments, or other organizations, that might also need your help. Make a habit of regularly searching the LinkedIn profiles of your connections, starting with your best customers. Look for people who might make good referrals. Ask for help in connecting. One of the best ways to build, and sustain, a relationship with a key contact is to make the person look good to their bosses, friends and co-workers by solving their problems, too.

Don’t let a crisis go to waste. Be proactive when there are problems. Moments of pain, problems and complaints are actually opportunities to show how great your customer service is. Solving problems, and removing roadblocks for your clients, ensures that they feel valued and lets them know that you can be counted on to support them, even when there’s an issue to deal with. For instance, many industries are still experiencing supply chain issues. Your open, and honest, communication about any impending delays or other challenges will build trust, reduce complaints and make it less likely that your best customers start shopping around for other options.

If they’re not there already, build these five behaviors into your account plan as you/your company enters the last trimester of the year. You’ll be more likely to make success a reality in your customer’s world, and you’ll improve the odds of holding on to their business.

Jim Marshall is owner, and president, of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or

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