Why fear of losing a client will cripple your ability to grow

Have you ever noticed the face of someone totally shocked by seemingly obvious information but they just didn’t see it.

I’m often called in to review customer relationship health and strategic growth plans with account teams, sales leaders and business owners.

When we look at their customers and who the most profitable customers are. They suddenly realise a shocking Pareto Principle in action.

The difference is instead of seeing 20% of their customers producing 80% of the revenue the reality is it’s as little as 5% of their customers producing 80% of their revenue. They now know they're treading on potentially dangerous grounds.

When I ask what would happen if they lost one of those 5% customers the answers tend to be one of three.

"I don't know", "we'd survive" or "we'd be in trouble". Some variation of these three. 

Rather than many companies meeting this revelation with a view of ‘let’s discover ways to become irreplaceable to the 5% while we evaluate the 95% and where we can do better. Many fall into what I call ‘Fear based Service’.

Fear based service is service to prevent a client leaving rather than giving customers a compelling and genuine reason to stay through your daily engagement.

I saw this fear based service mentality while working with a company in the UK.

They had just lost one of their biggest 5% companies and I had come in to help evaluate their relationship strategy.  

Since the loss of that customer the whole company seemed on edge. Every disagreeing email or non 100% mark by a customer was met with fear and blame internally. 

The sales managers and owners we're so caught up in the day to day of trying to move ahead and stay alive they didn't realise they were operating out of fear and not service.

Fear always focuses on its self, whereas service looks creatively to adding value and supporting others. This company was crippling its ability to see the opportunity because all they saw was opposition.

Fear based service impacts everyone. Some of the symptoms I saw in this company were:

·      An inability to listen to others opinion and see opportunity

·      Seeing customers as transactions rather than relationships 

·      Limiting ability to innovate and solve problems creatively

·      Limited ability to use empathy and see others perspective

As a sales leader, business owner and even account manager. It's important to be part of creating an environment for feedback, service based thinking and creative input that puts the needs of all parties on the table. Yes you want sales, profits and to pay your bills. But, you can't possibly continue to grow if you limit your own capacity to think beyond your circumstance.

Three big ideas to limiting toxic fear based actions when serving customers in difficult times.

Lead with trust, feedback and support

“Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work.” -Martin Oliver

Ask the question: How supported and appreciated do my colleagues and teams feel?

In the moments where things are tough you need to be even more attentive to how you empower and encourage those around you. That begins with extending trust and communicating honestly, clearly and often. This will send a huge message to your peers and teams in your business that you have confidence in their ability to achieve but are still there to support them. As a sales leader or owner you can then work on the things you can contribute most to and take the pressure off trying to figure out everything yourself.

Check in on your listening 

"You can't fake listening. It shows." - Raquel Welch

Ask the question: Does your team and colleagues feel listened to when you communicate and decisions need to be made?

 This question alone may uncover a hard truth about the relationships you have but in many cases it will immediately build trust and connection with your peers and team. They'll know as a sales leader or owner that you're concerned about them and it will give you an indication of whether or not you're really hearing the views of others. If your team, peers and colleagues feel listened to they’ll listen to you and will impact how they respond to your customers.

Ask yourself a service based question 

"Customer service isn’t a department, it’s a philosophy!" – Shep Hyken

Ask the question: Who wins if I make this decision? 

If it's only you then take another think. It has to include more than you and your favourite colleagues.  If your business, employees and clients don’t win as result of making service based decisions then there might be something wrong. I recognise not every decision is as straight forward as this but in the context of your customers it will encourage you to think differently. Share the question with others and see how it shapes or changes the way they might think about their customer decisions.


"To keep a customer demands as much skill as to win one." – American Proverb

If you resonate with what I write Send me a LinkedIn request and or get on my customer growth mailing list where I help key account managers, sales leaders and consultants understand how to deepen their client relationships and grow predictable sales from their high value customers. www.jermaineedwards.com  

Jermaine Edwards