8 Key Benefits of Client Education
Apparently, it was Benjamin Franklin who once said that “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
And with the world economy being turned upside down by the events of 2020, it seems that this adage has never been more relevant.
In this article, we’ll discover why this is the case and why the policy of sharp-sales practices leading to short term success could be at the expense of far greater long term gains.
Make sales, don’t make friends
A successful sales department is the driving force of an organization.
The profits it creates is its lifeblood, so it’s not surprising that many successful companies focus their resources on maximizing the efficiency of this area. Many adopt hire and fire strategies that ruthlessly prune the least performing members of the team and promote internal competition with huge rewards for those that stamp their way to the top.
And the strategy works.
Buoyed with the effectiveness of the Solution Selling methods from the 1970s which focused on layered client qualification questions to exaggerate the client problem and then present the vendor’s offering as the solution, the techniques are drilled into the organization’s revenue-generating teams. This is particularly the case for companies that sell products with high price-tags to the C-suite and have the need for long, complex sales cycles.
A new approach
However, as with all successful strategies in business, wide-spread adoption of the practice, as well as the need to evolve, eventually paved the way for the approach to be adapted, modernized, and improved.
And with increased pressure to sell in an ever-more competitive environment, companies began to look into the benefits of an approach that created more value for the customer. This new way of working would lead to a realignment of business strategies, a deeper understanding of key issues, and the need to decode the overwhelming mass of data to fast-track the client to the solutions.
The basis of this approach was client education.
What is client education?
Client education is an effective high-value strategy that results in deeper, long-term client relationships and ultimately more sales.
Educating clients is an undertaking that is carried out in face-to-face environments, such as through seminars, workshops, sponsored events, or by meeting directly on-site to consult on the options that are available to fulfill the particular need.
The commitment of time and money to allow for this is often seen as prohibitive. This has incentivized many companies to provide online alternatives. It’s here that as much as 80% of the costs can be saved through the provision of education via webinars, eLearning, or blended learning and where the majority of the work is done in a self-paced and remote manner.
This has become especially prevalent in 2020, as the culture of home-working and online meetings has become normal and the benefits of these working methods have been realized more widely.
The willingness to provide education for clients in this way is a strategy that can lead to a host of benefits:
The benefits of client education
1. It establishes you as an authority
The Principle of Authority is one of the 6 main Principles of Persuasion discussed in Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking work, ‘The Principles of Authority.’ It develops the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.
By educating your customers you position yourself as an expert. Close client cooperation by the provision of information that isn’t necessarily within their field of expertise sets you up as a confident and go-to authority. This is a priceless service that has the power to give your client the status of authority within their business, something that’s likely to be rewarded with all with a close working relationship and growing volume of repeat business.
2. It allows you to stand out from the competition
The provision of extra value to the clients is more expensive in terms of vendor commitment. This is why the majority of suppliers fail to follow through on this approach. After a long cycle of client engagement, whereby unbiased, valuable advice is provided at no cost, there is no guarantee of a vendor recouping the investment.
This means that many vendors choose not to or cannot afford to take advantage of this option, which is great news for those that have the willingness, or reserves to stick to the plan.
3. It provides an unbiased, trustworthy view
The approach is effective because it sets an expectation that the vendor is there first and foremost to inform the client of all the options available, through a detailed examination of the issues. This is where the value is realized by the client. An unbiased dissection of the data, something that would take the most time to complete by the client, is carried out without obligation by the vendor.
This is an approach that takes time but crucially allows the vendor and client to build a trusted relationship during the period. And it’s this foundation of trust that leads the way to a higher life-time value of the client to the vendor.
4. It resets the client expectations
There’s a reason why many companies refer to their sales executives as ‘Business Development Consultants,’ or Client Success Managers.’ Most clients hate to be sold to.
The practice of quick sales over long term revenue generation, as well as the historic over-reliance on high numbers of cold approaches to unqualified prospects, led to the chances of ever actually speaking to a decision-maker being reduced to fractions of a percentage.
Approaching clients with a view to adding real value changes the game. Proving your value through the provision of information means that they view you with a different lens, as opposed to the one adopted when a company is approached for a quick sale.
This change lowers the client’s guard, takes away the fear of being taken advantage of, and sets you up in a trusted position of an external advisor.
5. It gives greater satisfaction to all parties
There is no better feeling in life than the one that is created when your endeavors add real value to the lives of others.
Providing your clients with rich information that makes a difference in their professional lives is hugely rewarding. As is the fact that you’re building a foundation of business connections that will sustain and grow your business well into the future.
Short-term selling rarely provides the same feelings of satisfaction and meaning. It’s a practice that focuses purely on revenue, which of course, is vitally important, but never at the expense of the greater long-term financial incentives or protection of your business reputation.
6. It provides a deeper level of engagement
Given enough time, a conversation with a stranger will often take a number of unexpected directions, the destination of which will reveal information that will be highly valuable.
This is analogous to the long-term, patient development of relationships with clients. To begin with, the interaction is relatively high-level, with only non-contentious, ‘public-forum’ topics being addressed. However, as the ‘sniffing-out’ process enters into more advanced stages, trust is built, guards are lowered and a deeper level of interaction occurs.
This where the real value is realized by both sides as the undeniable laws of reciprocation creates a to-and-fro of information exchange that locks in trust and results in long-term business benefits.
7. It helps to build long-lasting client relationships
Educating your clients on an aspect of business and providing them with real value is a way of building up trust. This in turn buys loyalty and puts you in the best possible position to provide products or services that fulfill a related client need.
Over time and with consistent application of the same working principle in providing value through client education, the lifetime value of the client will be built to a level that far exceeds any financial benefit from a single, opportunistic, short-term arrangement.
8. It creates prospect & customer evangelism
The value of educating a client in terms of the potential time, effort, and money saved is potentially such that there is a great chance for reciprocation over and above business opportunities.
In these times of greater online connectivity, as well as the continued need for trust and proof of capabilities, it’s no wonder that business referrals are still one of the main sources of revenue for companies,
A client that evangelizes about your proposition to other companies short-cuts the potential sales process, as it pre-sells your capabilities, reduces the risk of working with you, and can also automatically transfer the feeling of trust between the parties as the recommendation comes from a credible source.
Providing valuable information to clients is a strategy that pays huge long-term dividends in terms of client trust, engagement, and ultimately growth in your business.
The education of clients helps them to save time and money, boosts their personal brands within their organizations, and provides them with a trusted business partner and reliable ally when needed.