The success of a business is directly related to customers. The importance of a customer is linked to the cycle of engaging new customers, retaining existing customers, and expanding on sales opportunities to current customers. At all points in the customer cycle, building a relationship is essential for ongoing customers and repeat business.
Prior to ever contacting or visiting with a customer, be familiar with your own sense of confidence. Know that you are excellent in your market, and are the one to solve problems. Be willing to quickly admit that you can make mistakes. A segue to use in any customer conversation could be asking how things are moving in their market or even where their future direction looks like. A simple conversation can begin the process of developing trust. A long-term business relationship can be built by using these 3 steps.
1. Establish a common ground. Identify the areas of interest that you both have. Through the conversation you can explore:
- Industry and market trends
- Schools, groups, or memberships
- Opinions or theories
- Sports events/teams
The common ground, once established, will lead to a comfortable dialogue with both sides asking and answering questions.
2. Empathetic listening. We often forget that it is nice to just be heard. Listen intently and then show understanding of what someone is going through. There is never any shame or guilt. Connect with the situation and be supportive. Try listening and not offering suggestions or solutions.
3. Build a rapport. Ask about their opinions and identify their needs. Answer the questions that were not asked. Behind a simple question may be a larger one that remains unasked. For example, someone may ask you about building your own business and really what they need is support and encouragement to start their own. Think about what lies beneath a question so that you can answer that too.
The best connections are kept intact over time. These steps can be helpful for every contact, each time. Even for customers that you have known for a long time. Avoid becoming lax in your approach to your customers, but sure that they always know you are interested specifically in them. Strive to rise above the business relationship and become two people that brighten each other’s day. Because everyone relationship has value.