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Is Your Next Star Client Currently Playing in the Minors?

It happens all the time in sports. A relative underdog rises to the top and wins the championship.

As one who tends to see the world through a business filter, I see this as the embodiment of a true lesson of customer retention and client outreach.

Why?

Because those we think are clear Number 1’s are never the only ones who win. An underdog always comes through.

The trouble is that most businesses, if they spend any time on customer retention at all, focus their time, money, energy, labor and love toward their current Number 1’s. And who are these Number 1’s, anyway? A business owner could decide its Number 1 is the customer that happens to be the largest company, has the highest market value, carries the greatest name recognition, has the most employees or has done the largest volume of business over the past several years.

There’s nothing wrong with lavishing attention on these folks. In fact, I’d take issue with any company that decided against doing so. But what I’ve realized is this:

Companies that place undue emphasis on their Number 1’s give short shrift to thinking about where their NEXT Number 1’s could come from.

Inevitably when we hold an event or reach out to our community of clients, contacts and friends of the firm, I get a response or two that rocks me back on my heels a little. We’ll get responses from the usual suspects, but then we’ll get a surprise. We’ll hear from a company or contact from which we hadn’t had a response in years; someone who I only included on the list in one of my “what the heck?” moments.

I can tick them off on my fingers – one by one, repeatedly over the years – the times when those surprises resulted in a rekindled relationship and a thriving business relationship.

Those are times when the underdog wins.

Every year, business owners see top seeds fall back to regroup, toppled by a lower seed. Which means that client retention and outreach programs must be designed to find those lower seeds with promise.

There is an old saying in sports that you shouldn’t go to the ball; you should go to where the ball will be.

The same is true in business.

In order to know where the ball will be – where your customers will be – you’ve got to know their plans, strategy and vision. Only then can a company figure out whether a particular customer plans to grow into what would be, for them, a Number 1.

Just like in sports, I root for the lower seeds in my business. And I make it my business to search for the future Number 1’s regularly.

That’s because in business, in contrast to sports, every month is the finals.

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Eliot Wagonheim shares business insights that help companies stay on course. Get our latest blog posts sent right to your inbox. Click here to subscribe.