annoyed customerWhat are the five words your customers dread the most when they pick up the phone? (Besides “Hi, this is the police” or “Dad, we need to talk”?) It is “Just calling to check in.”

Common sales wisdom often tells you to check in with your existing customers periodically, to see if there is anything else they need. Or, put another way, if you can make another sale to them. Here is what these calls really accomplish:

  • They interrupt whatever your customers were doing while they were busy not thinking about you.
  • They make you sound hungry and desperate.
  • They destroy your credibility. If you are always pressing to sell to people, no one wants your advice or opinions, because they know your answer will always involve paying you for something.
  • They can get awkward on both sides. Do you think people really want to get into a discussion with you about why they just went with a competitor?
  • They make people less likely to do business with you in the future.

My car dealer doesn’t call me asking if I am thinking about a new car. My local music store doesn’t check to see if I might want to buy another guitar. And I don’t contact my former speaking clients – or heaven forbid, my psychotherapy clients – to see if they might need my services again. We all have faith that previous customers know where to find us when they need us. And this is what they increasingly expect in an information-on-demand society.

So what can you do besides just wait for customers to come back? Lots of things. For example:

Become an information source. Trolling for new sales makes you a pest. But judiciously passing something along that really, truly benefits a client can build relationships and keep you top of mind.

Work your channels. A post on someone’s social media channel or blog doesn’t bother me at all. An email with an informative subject line, which I can open or not, is OK too – especially if you aren’t spamming me every single day. A phone call? It had better be really important for me somehow, because there are lots of you out there versus just one of me, and I’m pretty busy.

Build your platform. Where have my own 40-50 speaking dates a year come from? Usually from the same place – people calling me. Because they read my books, saw me speak somewhere, or got good word-of-mouth from another satisfied client. The best business of all is the kind that finds you.

Customer relationships are precious and important to nurture. And personally many (if not most) of my own customers would be running for the hills if I pestered them for more business.

We are increasingly becoming a society that does business with people who are trusted partners, not aggressive shills. There is nothing wrong with a proactive, well thought out strategy for managing your best customer relationships, but if you want to be competitive in the future, I would check out from checking in.