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Our Masterclass this morning was about Customer Engagement but we diverted onto two extra subjects. The first, inevitably, was sales since you don’t need to worry about customers until you’ve got some. And, perhaps as predictably, with Kevin Hollinrake MP as one of our Entrepreneurs in Residence and panel member, politics came up. Our other panel members were Adrian Fitzpatrick from Arena Group and Tim Wood from our Partner McInroy & Wood.

Sales Issues

We started with a question from a Partner, Simon Palmer of Garbutt+Elliott – How important are a company’s values to making a sale, and what benefit are those values to a customer. Adrian thought it is critical, people align themselves with people with similar values to themselves. Kevin, who is still Chairman of Hunters Estate Agents, which he founded 25 years ago with a partner, said it is vital to get all staff to feel and believe in your values.

And another question from a member Luke Fenton of Purex International – Changing a prospect into a customer and how often to push a potential customer. The answer was first do your research and know and understand your potential customer, this is more important than how often you approach them.

Customer Retention

All sorts of random thoughts. Think how you can help your customer help their customers; this helps you really understand your customer’s business. Listen to customer feedback and implement suggestions, or at least give serious thought to them. Adrian has “cuddlers”  whose only job is to look after customers and make sure they renew their contracts. Arena Group sell office equipment on 5 year maintenance agreements so renewing is all important.  

It’s easier to retain customers than get new ones so offering new improvements and extras is vital to keeping customers happy.

The panel all said they had regular review meetings with their customers, quarterly or at least annually. Kevin said his 85 year old mother rang each customer up after Hunters had sold their house and asked them for feedback; I’m sure that is just for the York office not the 200 plus franchises around the country!


Question – WHAT is going on?! Kevin – business is keeping its head down and carrying on. Hopefully there will be a 2 year negotiation phase followed by a 3 year wind down to give business a chance to adjust. Most politicians have very limited understanding of business and even that is of big business; they hardly ever think about SMEs. “SMEs represent over 99 per cent of all private sector businesses, accounting for 59.3 per cent of private sector employment and 48.1 per cent of private sector turnover at the start of 2013. As well as making a disproportionate contribution to job creation they play a key role in growth by driving competition and stimulating innovation” See: