There are many great client relation tips in sales, but one of the best is, “Leave Something Behind (or soon thereafter).” Last year I wrote an article about how to “read a client’s office” to determine personal information about them but I never said what to do with it. “Leaving something behind” means that after the first visit, when you have had the opportunity to study the space and/or engage in client conversation, you always follow up that first visit by sending something relating to the personal background you discovered about that client. It could be a book, a research article, a magazine article, a small gift, a photograph—something small, but thoughtful. Send it with an old-fashioned handwritten note. It shows that you really listened and cared about what the client said.
The goal is to give you a memorable and personal point to pick up the next conversation with this individual where it left off in the last meeting. This symbolizes to the client that you not only listened, but were affected enough to continue thinking about them even after the meeting ended. Some time may have passed, but you remember where you left the discussion and are ready to re-engage. A physical reminder of your visit will linger long after your discussion. As you finish your second visit, study the office or that day’s conversation further to think about the third visit’s ‘leave behind.’ That’s right: it does not stop after the first visit.
I’ll give an example that occurred to me just the other day. I visited a well-known financial institute that I bank with, to review my investment portfolio. The meeting went fine and afterward, the senior officer of the bank joined us for lunch. During our time together this smooth executive asked about my hobbies and non-profit boards. I mentioned my affection for American history—especially the Civil War. He asked me if I knew of a friend of his in our town who had the same interests. I said I did not, and he talked about a recent book this friend had given him. Within 48 hours after our visit, the subject book arrived in the mail with a hand-written note saying how much he enjoyed our lunch. That is a superior client server! I will remember him for that book, and we will start with that topic when I see him next, although it had nothing to do with banking.
Now in adopting this technique, there are several rules relative to what not to leave behind.
- Obviously, you never leave a gift of such value that the client is uncomfortable or forced to make a judgment decision not to accept it. Having a client reject a gift is a disaster and reflects on your bad judgment.
- If you don’t know about the client’s gift rules, a good rule of thumb is to never give anything valued over $50, even if permissible. In my experience, most of my leave-behind gifts have been paper.
- The third rule is to avoid gifts with a logo on them, except in the case of a research paper. You do not want the client branded with “your” stuff or your company’s logo, especially in the eyes of his peers or subordinates. To be seen with paraphernalia covered in your company’s logo will be perceived as you ‘marking his space.’
Early in my relationships with clients, I would lean toward giving technical or business items. But as I got to know the client’s hobbies and interests, more personal items relating to those interests were left. The mementos serve to create a wonderful bridge and represent thoughtfulness. Many of my clients can still tell you some article, book or artifact I have given for “leave something” gifts.
My mother taught me to never come empty-handed to a dinner party, and I have extended that lesson to never go empty-handed to a repeat client meeting.
© 2017 Robert Uhler and THE UHLER GROUP. All rights reserved.