With all the buzz around social media and online sales, it’s easy to think that building customer relationships is “old school” – the way grandpa used to sell things, back before apps and texting.
Well, thumb this into your smartphone: Buyers still prefer to do business with people they like – people who are authentic and care about them.
Customers who feel cared for will spread the word about you and your offerings. And be more likely to give you good referrals.
Here are seven proven relationship builders:
1. Get past surface-level knowledge. Find out more about prospects and customers. Use Google or Facebook to research their interests, background, likes and dislikes, or birthdays. Then you can open a conversation with something that matters to them, not you.
2. Make casual calls. Think of good reasons to call customers and share new ideas or information, without an “agenda.” Best bet: Something of value to them personally that’s completely unrelated to selling. You’ll know this strategy is working when they start calling you to share.
3. Make sure you can be depended upon. Too many sales reps make what Mom used to call “pie-crust promises” – that is, easily broken. Treat even minor promises as sacred responsibilities. If you say you will call back Tuesday, do so. When you say, “I’ll take responsibility for that,” or “Consider it done,” those are magic words to a customer.
4. Put customer needs first. Practice “servant leadership” when it comes to customer relations. For example, make yourself available after business hours if the situation calls for it. Giving out your home number is a small thing, really, because it’s unlikely to ever be used. But it demonstrates a willingness to be “on call” and is reassuring to customers.
5. Say thanks when you get bad news, too. Everyone will do a “happy dance” when a deal closes, and thank the customer for it. But if your close ratio is one in three, what about the two you lost?
Best practice: Send a note of thanks for being considered – and keep the relationship going. Doing so can result in business or referrals down the road.
6. Shine a light in any dark corners. If something is going haywire, address the issue quickly. Don’t let problems fester, because any delay in delivering bad news only makes matters worse.
An open and honest approach is best, even if there isn’t a solution at the moment – you show that you care and that every effort is being made to correct the problem.
7. Keep their feelings in mind. It helps to remember that buying decisions involve both the head and the heart. There is an emotional component on the buyer’s side that needs to be taken into account.
The customer may be silently asking “Is this the right decision?” or “What will happen to me if this goes south?” At these times, your effort to develop a solid, authentic relationship with the customer will help keep things on track.
Action step: Write three notes of thanks today. One to a prospect, another to a customer and a third to a business friend. Keep that up and in a year’s time you will have planted 750 relationship marketing seeds – without once using your smartphone.
What strategies do you use to help develop customer relationships? Please share, tweet or comment below.