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Apply the 80/20 rule to customer outreach

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At many organizations, 80 percent of the profits come from about 20 percent of the customers. Top salespeople already know this. That’s why they lavish attention on their “A” clients to keep them happy.

Smart managers can use the 80/20 rule to gather more revealing customer feedback. Example: At KeyCorp, the big bank based in Albany, N.Y., 82 percent of all revenue flowed from just 18 percent of customers. So executives collected and evaluated information on this 18 percent: what services they pay for, what investments they favor, what distribution channels they prefer.

Follow KeyCorp’s example and get closer to your customers by contacting the most active ones. Commit to calling at least five of your best clients every month. Rather than simply asking them a battery of questions, invite them to follow up by calling or e-mailing you with additional feedback. Give customers more time to reflect and let them know that you want to hear from them. This way, they may provide more meaningful input later.

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