Working with a client should not be perceived as an opportunity for a sale, but an opportunity to build a life long partner relationship. In my years of managing companies, I have learned, sometimes the hard way that a partnership is harder to develop but ultimately the way to go. This may seem like a basic concept, but it takes hard work and dedication to hone these skills. And yes, you can “teach an old dog new tricks.”
Patience, understanding, compassion and role reversing are all techniques that you must acquire if you ever want to develop this style in business relationships. Without a commitment to this lifestyle change, your career and business success will most surely be an uphill battle. Changing how you think about a customer will revolutionize how you look at business.
I recently read an article by Geoffrey James, an award-winning journalist and author of Inc.com’s Sales Source column. In it, he said, “The secret to customer loyalty lies in putting the interests of the customer ahead of your own. It’s really that simple.” He proceeded to define the “eight rules for making this happen.” The number one rule was…“Have a sales philosophy that emphasizes relationship building.”
Once you adopt this philosophy, the next challenge is to get your team members on board. Notice I said fellow team members, not employees. They are just as important as your potential clients. I like to refer to them as the “Internal Customer.” We strive to inspire confidence in our team by supporting initiatives, communicating, listening and recognizing achievements. Once you develop this as a core business model, the success will be contagious and building partnerships with the “External Customer” will be a cinch. Each employee will enjoy their role in the company and their attitude will permeate to potential prospects. Eventually, the word will get out and prospects will start calling you.
Help your people learn the constructive and collaborative partnering strategies they can use to positively impact business relationships. We’ve even incorporated this philosophy into the way we answer the phones. When people call our office, we answer by giving the name of our company and then we say, “…where we inspire confidence. How can I help you?” We inspire confidence with our clients by doing our most professional work and putting the customer first. By the way, I always take calls from people regardless of why they are calling. To me, any conversation is a possible opportunity to make a new friend.
Partnerships are driven by factors such as common goals, commitment, trust and open communication. If you ever have an uncomfortable situation with a client, you should not be afraid to call them to discuss the scenario. It should be no different than working with one of your own employees. Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake and ask for their assistance in a meaningful resolution. A good partner is one who welcomes a call from you and provides you with the opportunity to fix the situation before he threatens to go to the competition. Joint accountability and responsibility are the building blocks of any relationship.
Geoffrey James wrote that his eight rules for building customer loyalty were based on a conversation he had with Jeff Gitomer who he referred to as an “amazing sales mega-guru.” Here are the rules in their entirety:
- Have a sales philosophy that emphasizes relationship building.
- Define a unique niche and become the customer’s expert on it.
- Help the customer build the customer’s own business.
- Translate what you offer into the customer’s business results.
- Value the relationship more than making your quota.
- Think end-of-time friendships, not end-of-month totals.
- Achieve a perfect job of delivering what you’ve promised.
- Provide absolutely impeccable service after the sale.
It just so happens that many of these rules are strategies that we constantly strive to implement. That’s why, when someone asks, “How are you today?” I respond by saying, “I get better every day.” Try it and see what kind of reaction you get from the person on the other end of the phone or the other side of your desk and let me know how it works for you.
Credibility and trust are two key words that echo in any article you read on building partnerships. Take them seriously and success will come easily. I personally struggle each day to live the “Golden Rule.” I encourage you to do as well and call me any time. We are trying to “get better every day,” but we want to do it with you as a partner.