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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Commercial Edition   |   March 2016

Support and Protect Your Clients

Your business will blossom if you become a resource that provides help, advice and advocacy.

Support and Protect Your Clients

If you act as a trusted advocate and adviser, and think of your clients as more than mere sources of revenue, they will stand by you in good and bad times.

Do you have customers, or clients? The terms seem interchangeable, and any difference in their definitions may seem like a distinction without a difference. Whether you refer to someone as a customer or a client, you’re talking about the person who buys what you’re selling. Isn’t it that simple?

Not by a long shot.

There is a very important and tangible difference between a customer and a client, and understanding the difference can have an extraordinary impact on your productivity, help dictate the way you originate mortgages and create valuable long-term benefits for your business.

The Random House Dictionary defines the word customer as a person who purchases goods or services from another.

A client is defined as anyone under the patronage of another.

This is where it gets interesting, and where a shift in perception is of critical importance. Support and encouragement are essential elements of patronage. A patron, in other words, supports, promotes and protects someone else. If you consider those you do business with your clients, then you are their supporter and protector, not just the professional who provides them with a product or service.

For many (if not most) originators, this is a 180-degree shift in perspective. It means that they can no longer look at buyers strictly as a source of revenue. Rather, they must view them as associates and as people for whom they are obligated to do their best. They become their clients’ protectors and supporters. Consequently, they are obligated to ensure all products and services are the best that they can be, and that what they are seeking in exchange for serving their clients is fair and reasonable.

The words fair and reasonable are not interchangeable with inexpensive. If you are supporting and protecting your clients to the best of your ability, you are providing them with something of value. As their patron, make sure that the compensation you demand is commensurate with that value.

A team effort

The concept of “client” should permeate every aspect of your business. How does the receptionist answer the phone? Do your technical support people talk down to clients, or do they offer them true support and encouragement? Do your sales people work to satisfy the clients’ needs or their own needs? If your clients meet you on your turf, is your office a clean, inviting and comfortable place in which to do business? Is your promotional material designed to make the mortgage lending process easy to understand, or is it filled with technical jargon?

Cultivating clients as opposed to customers puts your business in a much stronger position. You develop a deeper relationship with a client, and the longer that relationship exists, the more transactions (and the more revenue and net profit) you can expect. This is important, because it is so much easier and much less expensive to keep an existing client than it is to capture a new one.

You want to be sure that you are working with
clients who fit within your business goals.

Clients have an emotional bond with their patrons. Customers have an emotional bond with their pocketbooks. Clients will work with you if there is a hiccup in the relationship. Customers will buy somewhere else without a second thought. Clients will tell others about the wonderful things you’ve done for them. Customers will ask their friends where they can find a better deal. Clients will remain loyal buyers for a long time. Customers tend to look for the next new thing.

What you want are clients, not customers.

Finding the right clients

There is a flip side to this client-first philosophy. It demands a high level of discipline and clear understanding of your company’s strategic plan and business goals. When you adopt the client-centric approach, you commit yourself, your business and all your employees to determining and serving the most important needs of your clients. As a result, you want to be sure that you are working with clients who fit your business goals.

Far too many companies forget those goals and stray from their stated values and purpose just to close a deal. The reasoning often goes like this: “The prospective client is a high-profile company, and having that name on our customer list will look good!” But is that really the right client for you?

Consider, for instance, the effect of landing a Fortune 1000 company as a client, when all of the others on your client list are middle-market companies or smaller. The Fortune  1000 company is more likely than your other clients to expect an immediate response to any query, and for you to drop anything and everything to address the needs of the company.

Although that business may look great on your marketing materials, the time it takes to serve that single client can interfere with your primary mission of providing excellent service to all of those you have done business with for years. Because of the demands of this one company, it is less likely you will be able to support and protect all of the other clients you serve.

Maintaining the discipline to fire a client or decline business that does not fit your model can be difficult. Coping with the pressure to perform well in a troublesome partnership, particularly one that includes the lure of a big payday, can be very difficult. Think back on your own experience, and recall one or more of your problem customers. Did you have misgivings when you took the deal? Were you concerned that the requirements of the customer were outside your typical delivery capability?

When you have those sorts of misgivings, it’s wise to pay attention to them. Those gut feelings can guide you away from unprofitable clients.

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Maintaining a clear vision for your business can and should go hand-in-hand with a client-centric philosophy. When you know your market, recognize your capabilities and keep an unwavering commitment to your clients, your work becomes a labor of love. A business foundation also is created that allows you to expand your market reach in a planned and organized manner. That, in turn, creates more opportunities to offer your patronage to an expanding list of clients. 


 


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