Customer Relationships: The Key to Sales Prosperity

By: Thomas Young

(appeared in the May 19, 1999, issue of inBIZ magazine of central Colorado)

Selling is the process of building a trusting relationship with people. This is not a passing trend or sales technique, but a way of life. The relationships you develop with customers determine your level of sales success. Following are a few suggestions regarding how to make this happen.

Build Better Relationships by Improving Yourself

The first step in building effective relationships is to take a good, hard look at yourself. Where can you improve to become a greater asset to your target market? You cannot change or control your customers, but you can choose how you interact with them. This is the key to building effective relationships.

Build a Partnership

Think of yourself as a partner with the customer. The goal is service to the customer and your customer’s clients. Ask yourself this question: “How can I help my client improve and grow his or her business?” Develop a healthy sales dependency verses short-term, quick, in-and-out approaches. Develop a customer or client rather than a sale.

People want to develop a relationship with someone who is dependable and meets their needs. In this way, the relationship becomes more important than the product or service. The relationship actually becomes your competitive advantage and a real benefit to the customer. The customer buys you — as much if not more than the actual product or service.

Build Trust

Trust is the glue that holds this relationship together. Trust is expressed repeatedly in your actions — simple things such as returning phone calls immediately and doing what you say you will do. In this way, trust is an absolutely essential part of sales. If trust is not present, customers will not buy.

Trust is built by showing competence and credibility. Competence is getting the job done right — better than competitors. Credibility is your character, integrity and honesty. Your competence is expressed through knowledge of the client’s needs and the ability to work with others. Your character should be composed of an abundance mentality that is expressed through giving and unselfish behavior.

Trust is also built through frequent communications and listening to customer issues. Listening builds trust because it shows how much you value the customer. Contact customers on a regular basis and make use of check-in, cycle, and new product announcement calls. Inquire about the needs and thoughts of customers and listen to their responses. Other ways to build trust include:

  • Listen, listen, listen and then listen more
  • Return all phone calls immediately
  • Send thank-you notes
  • Do something different and special — be creative
  • Handle complaints promptly with empathy and honesty
  • Be extremely dependable and organized
  • Offer great customer service
  • Show sincere appreciation
  • Value customers

Do these things because people want to feel important and valued. More importantly, do these things without any expectation of return from the customer. Understand that if you give one, you will be rewarded with 10.

Build Relationships With All Types

You cannot please everyone. Remain objective and build relationships with many different personality types. The goal is to allow people to be who they are — to understand them, not to attempt to criticize and correct them. When a challenging customer comes along, spend more time listening with empathy and work toward a win-win. This is done without compromising your key principles, values or mission. Improve your self-concept and it becomes easier to relate to all types of people.

Build Relationships by Adding Value

Find ways to become a valuable resource to the client. Identify the core problem, not the symptom, and create solutions that add value to customers. Guide customers through the value-added learning process. They may need to learn how your product or service can add value. Know that people learn differently and retain what they understand and have interest in. People are very interested in what will add value to them.

Be creative and flexible in your relationships with people. Know the difference between fact, opinion and assumption and recognize bias and emotion. Be the person customers want to see and meet with because you add direct value in the form of a productive and effective relationship. There is mutual benefit, respect and appreciation.

Tom Young, MBA is a sales and marketing consultant helping companies increase revenues.