Client Engagement: Your Strongest Competitive Advantage – by Joe McGonigal

One of the primary goals for salespeople and the organizations they represent used to be clear: Achieve customer satisfaction! But the data is hard to ignore. Business Week says that between 60% and 80% of defecting customers describe themselves as “satisfied” or “very satisfied” just before they leave.

Today’s consumers expect more and they’re demanding more. Why? Because they know more is available and they want to extract all the value they can from their business relationships. To be more specific, they want two dimensions of value. The first is functional value, the value that comes as a result of buying your product or service. That might be cost reduction, increased efficiency, or higher profits. Functional value has always been important and that hasn’t changed.

But your clients also expect emotional value. They want relationships that have more dimension. The transaction itself isn’t enough. In order to provide emotional value, you can’t just ask, “What does the client want?” You must ask, “How does the client want to feel?” Sales people that create emotional value don’t stop at producing business outcomes, they also change the way their clients feel about their business, their opportunities, and even their lives.

When you build client relationships on both function and emotional value, several things happen.

The Nature of the Relationship Changes

When you create a deeper emotional connection with a client, retention and loyalty increase. Engaged clients feel safe. They know they’re in the right place. This feeling of safety and security creates client confidence. Confident clients share more and listen more openly to your advice. They feel better informed, which leads to a willingness, even a desire, to explore with you what would be best for their business.

And that’s how you create a competitive advantage, increased sales, better margins, and a stronger brand for you and your company.

Advocacy Trumps Referral

Satisfied clients can offer you a lot, but engaged clients offer more. A satisfied client can be an excellent source of referrals. But there is one condition to these referrals. They will most often recommend you only when asked. They don’t go out of their way to recommend you to their peers.

Engaged clients are different. They’re more invested in the relationship. They believe in what you do and what your company can provide. They take pride in the relationship and they want you to be successful. There is a sense of ownership that drives them to become advocates. They recommend you even before they are asked! As advocates, they take the initiative to tell others about you, and their enthusiasm sends a credible message that you are competent and trustworthy.

Advocates are invaluable and engagement is their catalyst. Because they are engaged, they communicate the value you create on your behalf in a way that is far more meaningful than just a referral.

Creating Engagement: Where Do You Start?

To engage your clients, you must first be engaged yourself! It all begins with you.

Engagement doesn’t just happen. It requires constant focus. For you to be seen as credible and trustworthy, the emotions you express about your job, your company, your team, and your desire to serve the client must be genuine and authentic. And the client will know when they aren’t. Every time!

Before clients will commit to engage, they must feel that a relationship based on interdependency and mutual respect will be the outcome. They will only feel this way if it’s clear to them that you’re engaged as well.  It has to be a two-way street!

Author and trainer Colin Shaw sums it up by saying, “Satisfaction refers to how an employee feels about his or her job as it relates to compensation and benefits, room for development, work environment, and related conditions, while engagement refers to the employee’s desire to go above and beyond what is expected of them to innovate and further company goals. While you cannot have an engaged employee without first being a satisfied employee, you certainly could have a satisfied employee who isn’t engaged.”

In other words, your clients are a reflection of you. The more engaged you are in your work, the more likely you’ll be able to build greater levels of client engagement.


Joe McGonigal is the co-founder of SCC Partners, a coaching and consulting firm that helps sales professionals and organizations initiate new opportunities and grow sales revenue. You can connect with Joe at his Website, TwitterLinkedIn, or email him at