By Nigel Assam, SMEI Baltimore

What happens after you close the sale? How do you make sure your client won’t get buyer’s remorse? How do you get future business?

At April’s SMEI Knowledge Session presented by the Baltimore Chapter of Sales & Marketing Executives International, Jason Dixon, executive vice president of Neuberger & Company, Inc., spoke to an intimate gathering of members of the local business community about meeting clients’ expectations.

Clients will leave you for any number of reasons and they may not always be honest about why. Some of us have heard the following excuses: “We’ve chosen to go in a new direction,” or “It’s not you, it’s us,” or any other similar attempt at justifying a decision.

Sometimes it just may be that you did not meet their expectations, while other times your competition stole them away.

1. In the Post Sell, Jason explained that the first danger is the back out. You’re just at the point in negotiations when the contract is close to being signed when the client calls to say he’s changed his mind. One way to avoid this scenario is by having the “tough conversation.”

In the tough conversation, you’ll warn the client about the pitfalls of backing out and why it’s in his or her best interests to stay the course. By having this conversation, you’ll also put yourself in the role of trusted advisor.

Since there is the likely danger of your competition entering the picture, it’s important to inform your client about this. Explain why the competition won’t be able to deliver the same quality as you can. By coaching your client about your competition, he’ll be ready to counter their offers of promising lower costs and other benefits when they come calling.

2. After you’ve secured the deal, it’s crucial to have a communication process in place. How much will you be talking to your client? Between the two of you, it’s paramount to set up a schedule so you’ll know when and how often there’ll be in-person meetings. These in-person meetings are important for updates on your progress and grading, during which time small milestones are shown and you can prove that expectations are being met.

As part of the communication process, you’ll have to define what gets you fired. We all want to avoid this topic, hesitant to plant any negative thoughts in our client’s head. But it’s vital to learn why your client ended the relationship with your competition. This way, both you and the client will have a better understanding of each other. You’ll also have further understanding of your client’s needs.

During the relationship, it’s also necessary to keep a Fuzzy File. “It’s adding the personal touch, knowing personal information such as birthdays, hobbies, things like that,” Dixon said. “You do a little background research in order to know who your client is. I sent a birthday greeting to a connection on LinkedIn and it took no more than eight seconds.” It makes the client happy.

3. Finally, how and when do you ask for referrals? How do you get future business for both you and your client? The best time to ask for referrals, Jason advised, is when the contract is being signed. “That’s the happiest moment in the relationship. You’ve gained your client’s trust, he’s signing the contract and now paying you.”

But how do you ask for referrals even before you’ve actually delivered on your promises and met the client’s expectations? Using Emerson’s Law, “If you want more, give more,” offer the possibility of future business to the client. If you know of someone who could use your client’s services, mention this to him.

If you don’t yet know of anyone, you can simply put the idea in the client’s head by simply saying, “Hey Bob, if I know of anyone who could use your services, I’ll let you know, and I’d hope you’d keep me in mind for others.” Doing this may bring to mind an actual lead. It also lets your client know you care about his success.

Remember, even in the post sell, you’re still selling – but you’re no longer trying to win the client; you’re selling dependability to retain your client.