Your customers are prime for the success of your business. Do you know how to value and build them?
I have been selling "professionally" for about 15 years, and for over three decades.
When someone says s/he hasn't sold anything, any time, that's not true.
We all sell something every day.
When you go for interviews you are selling your capabilities.
When you go on a date you are selling your charm.
When you meet your boss, you are trying to sell something else.
In our daily lives, we always sell something.
So what does selling take?
Selling is easier if you think you are not selling but helping the other person.
Try building a relationship.
Let's consider what happens when you go out to buy a car.
The car salesman knows you will not buy the car that day, you are just there to check out the cars, you'll go home research for a few weeks/ months and then make the purchase.
So what does the car salesman do, s/he tries to build a relationship with you to make you feel comfortable.
People buy from people they like
You will not buy a car from a salesperson if you don't like the salesperson; well you may in extreme cases.
I hope you get the point. In this case the car salesperson tries to understand your requirements.
S/he tries to understand you and your family and then proposes the salient features of the car.
I've bought four cars so far, three from the same dealership.
The sales person there has put in effort to build the relationship and is always there to help me in need, even if it's not related to a new car sale.
Even though car service is not under his purview, he takes care of that and makes a call (rather than the call centre) to remind me of the pending service.
Who doesn't want to be pampered?
He even suggested I go for another brand when I was looking for a new car. But he was smart, suggesting something way beyond my budget but showed me the comparison between the expensive one and the brand of car he was selling.
So with this relationship built, what the car salesman also did was made me a pseudo spokesperson for that dealership.
I'm sure he has many more such customer references.
People tend to trust more if they hear a story
Start your conversation as not a sales pitch but with a story.
This story should define the problem and the solution -- what you are trying to sell.
Ask questions, start a conversation.
Your task shouldn't be to sell the product, but to see if the product you are selling is the right fit for the customer. Because if you sell something and that is not a right fit for the customer, the customer will not return and will possibly bad mouth the product.
Nobody wants to be sold to, but they want to experience new things and want to see how things can be done in a better way.
Get on a conversation which asks them what they think is a better way and why you think your solution is better.
In the same way in any other sales too, you need to understand the other person and build the relationship.
Be truthful because customers are intelligent and they will do their research before they part with their money.
Build the trust with your customers and help them out in whatever way you can. If you made a mistake say sorry and move on, everyone understands that everybody makes mistakes.
You don't close a sale, you start a relationship
Build on that relationship, since that one customer will become your sales person and help you sell more.
Lot of companies do customer surveys to understand how they are doing, in most cases the satisfied customer doesn't translate to loyalty.
The customer would still go with the person who built a better relationship with him and trusts him for the next product.
Engage your customers
Have you ever felt that your customer is not responding to your emails and calls?
You know it's a red flag, but what do you do about it.
Do you just call up the customer when you want something?
He is tired of that.
Build relationship, call up once in a while to check up on him. Keep track of how often you are interacting with your customers.
Ask for feedback
Talk to your customers regularly.
Anticipate problems before they come up.
Customers will always give you hints if things are not going right.
When customers give feedback, treat it as pot of gold. Take it up, no matter what and take them to closure.
You hear them, and they will hear you back.
If you neglect them, it might be difficult for you to get back in the inner circle.
Be the first go-to person
If the customer needs some advice in your domain of expertise, are you the first go-to person?
If not, then you haven't communicated enough and not built a good relationship.
Try to be a trusted adviser to your customer, gain the trust.
Lastly, build the relationship
Make your customers your sales people. Build that trust and relationship so that they speak well about you.
No customer will speak bad about the product, unless s/he is frustrated with the product or the service. Make every effort to build that trust.
So why did we build Relatas?
To help you build better relationships with your contacts.
Relatas helps you understand your contacts better before you meet them, reminds you when you missed responding to your last interaction, reminds you if your contact hasn't responded to you in a long time, and helps you set time with your contact in an easy way.
The author Sudip Dutta is founder of Relatas, a business relationship intelligence company.