6 ways to build (instead of flip) customer relationships

customer relationships

It’s probably a surprise to no one that most top salespeople (84 percent, in research conducted last year) are highly focused on their goals and vigilant about tracking process.

That vigilance is all well and good — as long as the salesperson understands the difference between making an immediate sale at all costs and creating a customer relationship that’s likely to generate long-term loyalty (and bigger revenues).

“When American consumers do spend, they’re vigilant in making sure they get the best value for their hard-earned money,” notes a recent Gallup story. “They research, compare, seek out recommendations, ask questions and carefully consider their options. Buying just about anything, whether it’s a $20 shirt or a $20,000 car, is more of an emotional act for customers than ever before. (And) they’re more inclined to spend it only with businesses they feel good about.”

The following tips for your sales force may encourage such relationship building:

  1. Listen twice as much as you speak. Encourage trust by not bombarding prospects with hard-sell techniques from the get-go. Psychologically speaking, you and your product will be more attractive to someone you’ve made feel important. Get them talking about themselves, conveying genuine interest in their employer, location, hobbies, opinions, experiences and problems. Be relaxed, conversational and humorous when possible.
  2. Know when to close the sale. Listen and watch for signs a customer is ready to buy. Verbal cues include increased questions about product details, delivery or payment options. In-person cues include a relaxed demeanor; increased eye contact; a leaning-forward stance; uncrossed limbs; head nodding and/or the studying of a price tag or contract.
  3. Know when to avoid sales speak. If a customer indicates an aversion to traditional selling methods, you’re better off simply pointing out product benefits without jumping on the sale. Think of the transaction as an honest, mutually respectful discussion, then let the prospect draw his own conclusions in his own time frame. Hopefully he’ll appreciate that and seek you out when he’s ready to buy.
  4. Position yourself as a partner. Ideally, the prospect should start thinking of your company as an ally in helping him solve his problem, not a money-grubbing opponent to fend off.
  5. Ensure your website and social media outlets are compelling, current and relevant. A new customer should always be able to learn more about your organization and brand by checking online.
  6. Follow up, letting prospects know you’re interested in their opinions and would like to help them further. Consider a CRM for the storage of entire prospect and customer histories in one location, allowing you to track the progress of each relationship.

One Gallup study found fully engaged customers bring an average 23 percent premium in profitability, revenue and relationship growth compared to average customers.