6 Ways to Build a Rock Solid Relationship
1. Put the customer’s needs before your own.
Don’t sell what you want your client to have. Instead, ask questions to determine what challenges your client is experiencing and then provide a program where your product and/or service are the solution. By asking the right questions and carefully listening to the answers, you’ll discover what truly motivates your client to do more business with you.
Too many times, salespeople already believe they know what the client needs before asking any questions or getting valuable feedback. Or, they just want an opportunity to quote the business which just results in a price game and doesn’t do anything to grow the relationship. When you focus on a needs based approach rather than product or service based approach, the relationship will grow to much higher levels.
2. Show a true interest in their business and personal life.
Over time, you will learn a lot about your client. Pay attention to the details. As you go through your work week, take time to read books, magazines, and newspapers. As you do, keep your clients in mind. When you see articles you think your client would enjoy or find benefit from, send it to them with a note saying that you thought the article might interest them. Take time to recognize their achievements and congratulate them on anniversaries, birthdays, special events, or awards. When you show a true interest in them as a person, the relationship will evolve into much more than just a working relationship.
3. Be an expert in your field.
Take the time to do whatever it takes to be an expert in your field. Take classes, read books, attend seminars or sales training, write articles, attend chamber or other local events, and offer to speak where applicable. Be up to date on current events and trends that relate to your industry, as well as your clients industry.
By continually educating yourself, you provide a value that benefits not only you, but your entire client base. When you are seen as the expert, the relationship with your client is on solid ground.
4. Be where your customer’s are.
There are many ways to be in front of your customers when you are not actually working with them. Try joining a local board; many business owners sit on local boards and would enjoy having another professional on the board with them. You should also attend charity, networking, and other social events. These are great places to see your clients out of the office and in a more relaxed setting. Many times they will attend with their spouse or other family members, what a great way to build a relationship.
5. Always do what’s in your customer’s best interest.
It is easy to do what’s in your customer’s best interest when it’s also in your best interest, but what about when it’s not in your best interest? Is it ok to sell something that makes you more money when you have another product that meets or exceeds your customer’s needs, but pays you less and saves them money? That’s a tough question right? Not really. Not if you want to build a rock solid relationship. Imagine how your client would feel if they discovered you didn’t provide the product that was the best fit for them, but one that was more expensive and only a reasonable fit. In the long run, a little more money isn’t worth damaging the trust and relationship.
A few other ways would be to sell the tough coverage, insist on not taking a short cut even though it might save them a few dollars today, and finally, be dogmatic on timelines and service.
6. Challenge them when needed.
Having the ability to challenge your customer is a combination of everything discussed above. When the expert in the field tells the client that they need to do something, even though they’ve never done it, it will be considered. Be prepared to challenge your customer on things that impact your relationship.
If they want to allow a competitor in to quote, challenge them. If they want to split business between you and a competitor, challenge them. If your experience is telling you that they are making a bad business decision, challenge them.
When you have a rock solid relationship, you can challenge your customer for the right reason. After all, if you are the expert, always do what’s in their best interest, put their needs first, and are truly interested in them personally and professionally, aren’t you the best thing for them? They will believe so too.
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Gary Kieper, CEPA, CFBA, is President at Kieper Sales Sales Solutions.