Let’s pretend for just a moment that you own several pairs of the type of shoe that needs to be cobbled and there are only two cobblers in town. One always offers your donkey–if your shoes need cobbling, it is unlikely that cars have arrived on the scene as of yet–a fresh carrot and chats with you about the weather. The other barely acknowledges your existence. Which one will you entrust with your favorite footwear?
Odds are you will choose to do business with the cobbler who takes an active interest in you–the one with whom you have a relationship.
Yes, it is human nature to be good to those who are good to you. And one way you reward kindness is by frequenting someone’s business. And, even though today’s business is often carried out in a much less personal setting than the cobbler’s shop–such as massive big box stores or over the internet–people still place tremendous value on personal service, trust, and reliability. They still crave relationships.
If you’re unsure how to go about fostering relationships with your current and potential future customers, here are a few tips to get you started.
Establish a Connection
When you hear the old adage, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” you may be tempted to roll your eyes and dismiss it as irrelevant, but the truth is that this still holds true today–especially in business. It is important that you approach your customers with a genuine interest in determining their unique needs and finding a way to meet those needs.
This means not only engaging them in a conversation, but also listening to what they are telling you and clarifying that you are understanding them correctly. Forbes‘ “How to Use Social Media to Make Sales” states that by saying “‘Here are some solutions to your problem, maybe my product or service can help,’ they will know you care about them.” And, as you will see in the next section, focusing solely on what’s best for your customer can sometimes mean not making the sale.
Remember…Short-Term Pain Equals Long-Term Gain
There will be times when your products or services are not the answer to a customer’s problem. (Pause while Sales Managers formulate counter-argument). As tempted as you may be to seal the deal, make your sales target, and collect your commission, the truth is that selling a product that will not benefit the customer is a huge mistake.
As “12 Things Every Sales Superstar Knows” warns “make a sale, you’ll make a living. Sell a relationship and you can make a fortune.” By being honest and becoming someone they can trust, you will likely win this customer’s future business and a healthy dose of positive word-of-mouth.
Earn Street Cred
One positive side effect of establishing better relationships with your customers is earning a stellar reputation in your industry. Yes, by treating your customers with respect, you will earn respect in return. And a whole lot of “good words” on the street.
Positive word-of-mouth can earn you a host of new business among your customers’ friends and family members. But positive online reviews can spread your good name even further afield. According to Huffington Post‘s “Reviews Equal Revenue: 4 Times Trust Drives Conversions in the Sales Cycle,” 76% of people seek online reviews before choosing a local business and businesses with said reviews drive 18% higher loyalty than businesses without any reviews. By nurturing a positive relationship, you will not only receive more positive reviews under the client’s own steam, but you will be in a better position to invite them to post their feedback.
Take the Heat–Even When It’s Not Yours To Take
For many people, the hardest part of providing top-notch customer service is admitting wrongdoing. It is important, however, to remember that the customer does not expect everything to go smoothly all of the time. They just want a company to own its shortcomings and make up for them. Sometimes, this means taking the heat for something that wasn’t your fault.
“Don’t Tell Me What’s In It For You” offers that no one wants to hear excuses, so as the face of the company, you need to own the problem, offer a straightforward apology, and tell the customer what you’re going to do to fix it. Not only will this strengthen your relationship, but it will also maintain your company’s glowing reputation and ensure that you will retain this customer’s future business.
So, stop focusing on the sale and start concentrating on your relationship with each and every customer. You will be pleasantly surprised by the results. And the size of your commission check.
If your sales team seems to be doing all the right things, but aren’t yielding the desired results, you may want to check out “How Selling Skills Assessment Tools Improve Customer Relations.”