Relationships Matter Most
Dennis owns a vehicle repair shop. He attended one of our branding seminars many years ago. As is still the case, when our seminars are complete, we invite attendees to a private workshop with our team to talk strategy and implementation. Dennis took advantage of that workshop.
We talked about competition; we talked about what made Dennis different from other car repair facilities. We asked why Dennis got in to the business in the first place (one of my favorite strategy questions with new clients).
Following the session we met with Dennis to share our plan, our strategy, and how we would identify his point of differentiation. The dramatization of that point would happen through storytelling . . . a campaign of commercials that positioned Dennis’ shop as, “The perfect alternative to those high-priced dealerships or those greasy grimy repair shops.”
Dennis loved the strategy, and the investment level, while a stretch, was appropriate. Then, the magic happened. At the conclusion of the meeting, we told Dennis, “There are a lot of great places to invest your advertising dollars. We hope that you have confidence and faith in our strategy and how we want to execute it, but you need to be completely comfortable.” We told Dennis that we were not interested in closing a sale, but instead, opening a business relationship.
The strategy was solid, the execution was strong, but what opened the relationship (as we found out later) is that we told Dennis to take his time and make sure the decision was right for him.
Dennis later explained that any company who would do all the work and at the end of the process not try to hard sell, but instead demonstrate that the relationship was important, was the company he wanted to work with.
In your personal life and in your business life the difference between success and failure, happiness and sorrow, is the quality and depth of your relationships.
Webster defines relationship as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
Before product knowledge, problem solving skills, or sales savvy, a successful seller must be good at cultivating, growing, and maintaining healthy relationships. No matter what product or service you sell, people buy from people. Relationship-building skills alone will not make you a top-performing seller. However, you can never become a top-performing seller without relationship building skills.
The most important and often overlooked quality at the foundation of every relationship is caring. You have to care about the people you build relationships with. Equal to the component of caring is the spirit of giving. Successful relationships are not successful because of what you get out of them; they are successful because of what you put into them.
Gauri Sharma is the CEO of Lab42. She shares her “7 Best Practices For Building Client Relationships” with Forbes magazine.
1. Be patient in building new relationships. Relationships take time. Resist indulging in disingenuous schmoozing, as it can be a severe put-off.
2. Get to know their industry and company. Keep up with your client’s company as well as their industry.
3. Go the extra mile.
4. Treat every client as your most important one. Simply put, happy clients are more likely to make referrals. Provide all clients with your best service, regardless of whether they are a Fortune 500 company or a small business.
5. Respond promptly. When a client emails you, acknowledge the receipt of the email as quickly as possible, even if you do not have the answer they are looking for. You will give them comfort by simply acknowledging the receipt of their request and by communicating that you’re on it.
6. Be more than an email address. Despite its prevalence in business today, email communication can often be misconstrued, especially during stressful situations, if senders and recipients do not know each other well.
7. Always summarize next steps. No matter how quick or trivial a client meeting seems, always recap the conversation with next steps. Many vendors skip this basic step.
We demonstrated to Dennis that we cared about him as a person, and we cared about his business. Dennis is a good client. The business has grown and the business has faced challenges. Because of the strength of the relationship we have with Dennis, we are still doing business with him today, more than 10 years later.
What item from the list above would be the most practical and impactful for you to start doing immediately?
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Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach Jeff at, Jeff.Schmidt@Sparque.biz
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