TALKING SALES 149: "Customer retention strategy"

John Smibert

retain-strategy2                     "Build a strategic moat around your customer" - Interview by John Smibert

There is nothing so frustrating - or so heartbreaking - to lose a good customer.

DylisIn our last two discussions with Dylis Guyan we have talked about the need for the sales strategy to 'Attract' and the strategy to 'Convert'. Now I am asking Dylis to talk about the strategy to 'Retain' and grow your customer's business relationship.

Firstly, Dylis  told me the importance of categorising your customers by level of importance.  We need to ensure our valuable time and resources are focused where we will get the most return.  She offers an approach to doing this.

She then outlined how to develop a strategy framework for each category of customer with specific focus on process and outcomes..

If the details of this discussion are likely to be of value to you I would be delighted if you were to watch or read the full interview below.


Dylis Guyan is based in Oxford, England and is an international sales and marketing expert, trainer, coach and speaker. She is also founder of the B2B Sales Academy.


John: Hello, I've got Dylis Guyan with me again - welcome back again, Dylis!

Dylis: Hi, John - it's lovely to be here again!

John: Hey Dylis, we've had some great discussions, particularly around strategy, which is a topic close to my heart, and you talk about the strategy to 'Attract' and the strategy to 'Convert', and now we're going to talk about the strategy to 'Retain'. So, we've attracted and converted, we have a customer, and now we want to retain.

Dylis: Yes, that's right.

John: Vital, isn't it?

Dylis: Completely, yes.

John: For a number of reasons. One is, it's much easier to get business from existing customers, once you've got a good customer, and I think if we lose a customer, the cost of obtaining a new customer is I've heard seven-eight times the cost of retaining a customer.

Dylis: That's right.

retain-strategy-7-arm-in-armJohn: So, let's talk strategy. What do you mean by strategy? What makes up a strategy for retaining a customer from your mind?

Dylis: Okay. Well, of course you've got a number of different clients, and you can't give everybody the same attention, so it's about segmenting those clients first of all. 

John: So not everybody's equal in our client base.

Dylis: That's right. So, I look at A, B and C, segmenting, and then I put what I call a touch programme together for my A-grade clients.

John: How do you define who's in A and who's in B and who's in C?

retain-strategy-5-abc-segemntDylis: I would have a look and see what's the best potential going forward? Is this a growing company? Are there opportunities to sell in other products, for example, against my C-grade, where it may be that there isn't an opportunity at this point.

John: Or they're not profitable or they don't pay their bills, they're not the sort of company that we want to work with.

Dylis: Well, I might even put them into D-grade. [laughs]

John: Okay. [laughs] Let's divorce them.

Dylis: Yes! [laughs]

John: Divorcing customers, there's nothing wrong with that if they're not the right sort of customer.

Dylis: Exactly. So, C-grade could be a smaller company where there's just not the opportunity. Again, this is very individual for each salesperson or business owner who's selling to other businesses in terms of what they see as their A, B and C grade. When I'm working with my clients, I help them to identify what that grading could look like for them individually.

John: And then you set up a separate strategy for your A's and to your B's and to your C's.

retain-strategy6-segmentation-effortDylis: Yes. I'm a great advocate of automating as much as you possibly can, but that's not to say that you don't also include the personal touch, the personal phone calls. Again, have them in Google Alerts so that you're alerted for anything that's happening and you can make the appropriate contact, and that you've got this... again, a written strategy like we talked about earlier, to say, "These are the things I'm going to do. I want to be aware of anything that's happening out of the blue so that I can react to that" They're going to get maybe a monthly phone call, if they're one of your real, top A-grades. And this also is about not looking to be selling all of the time, it's about bringing those valuable insights or valuable information to them.

John: It's so important, isn't it? And have in mind, as a salesperson I'm a giver. In fact, the whole word "sell" means "to give"; the Old English word "sellan" is where the word "selling" comes from. So, you really need to be giving, don't you, creating value for your customer.

Dylis: Yes.retain-strategy8-giving

John: You'll get something in return if you're doing that. But the focus shouldn't be on what you're going to get, it's focused on creating value for the other.

Dylis: Yes. Because what happens is that the customer will say, "Wow, the service I'm getting from this person is beyond anything I've ever had before!" so that immediately stands you head and shoulders above your competitors. What it also does is that when their friends or colleagues are looking for similar service, they will recommend you. So, it's not just repeat business, it's also about referral business as well, and it's the easiest way of growing your business, rather than trying to just bring in new clients all of the time.

John: New clients are tough, trying to get them across the line is tough and takes a lot of effort. It really doesn't take that much effort, as long as you have a good strategy in place, to service your existing clients and drive continuing business in the existing clients.

StrategyDylis: Yes. Again, and I must emphasise thist's writing it down and having the clarity of what you're going to do so that you're not engaging in this random work that's not giving you the results.

John: That then confuses the client and they don't see the value coming through the door.

Dylis: Yes, completely.

John: Okay. Great advice, and I like those three. Attracting your clients the first time, getting them across the line, and now retaining them, and you need a strategy in each case to do that, and you need to write your goals, write your strategy down and execute.

Dylis: Execute, yes!

John: Execute, execute, execute.

Dylis: Yes.

John: Dylis, thank you very much - I appreciate the time!


More discussions with Dylis:



Your Invitation: I invite you to join the Sales Leader Forum group on LinkedIn where you can experience informative discussions with your peers and sales thought leaders on subjects like the one we have discussed here. I also invite you to subscribe to the

   - Sales Leader Resource Centre here

   - Sales Leader YouTube channel here (300+ sales leadership videos)

Please Share: If you valued this article, please share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions. So feel free to add a comment on this post - I promise to respond. If inclined please follow my LinkedIn post page here.

Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

Your B2B Sales Library

Need resources to help you sell or manage more effectively?

Ever wished you could find a wide range of B2B sales Resources in one library?

Check out the library here

It's packed with articles, videos, keynote speeches, Tools, templates, training materials, eBooks and eGuides.‚Äč

Subscribe to the Library Here


European Peer Group Chair Wanted

We have a number of new enquiries from sales leaders based in the UK, Europe and South Africa who are looking to join a peer group.

We need a Chair to facilitate this new on-line group. This is a valuable role that will be rewarded.

If interested read "Is a Forum Role for you?" and if the answer is "yes" please Contact Us


A Sales Leader Forum provides you with the opportunity to connect with your peers and create a support network of like-minded individuals to learn how they have dealt with the same challenges, issues and problems that you’re facing.



1000's of sales articles, videos and sales tools.  Sales leaders and their teams can access most of it free - simply subscribe.

This site brings you some of the latest expert thought leadership content on business to business (B2B) sales from specialists, sales leaders and sales professionals.