Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” Part of this habit needs to include an ongoing positive attitude toward our customers. They assume you’ll give them a great big “thank you” after they buy your product or service. However, is that “attitude of gratitude” found throughout the selling process, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health?
As we work with our salespeople, we need to help them internalize a sense of loyalty to their customers, a loyalty that comes from relationship marketing. It gives your staff a positive attitude that can get them through most situations.
How do we convey to our people how important attitude is and convince them that nurturing relationships will help their sales? We need to show them future benefits. Here are two to consider:
- Customers will become your best advocates. When they’re happy and feel cared for they will spread the word about you and your product or service. Salespeople can always use referrals. What they need to visualize is that once you have a base of loyal clients who you have a good relationship with, referrals will come more frequently.
- Salespeople will enjoy their jobs more. Too often salespeople are not sure of how secure they are with a clients. It’s like dating; “Does he love me or does he love me not?” When salespeople know exactly where they stand with a client, there’s less anxiety. This security comes from a working relationship that has been based on mutual respect and trust. The net result is greater peace of mind and the desire to achieve more.
The goal now is to give your people specific tactics that will allow them to develop a consistent positive attitude toward their work and a desire to build customer relationships. Here are some tips that will help you train your people:
- Go beyond “surface” information. People like talking to people they know beyond the required information. During calls or meetings encourage your people to find out customers’ hobbies, names of family members, likes and dislikes, and birthdays. This information can be used to turn customers into friends that your company truly cares about. When it’s a special day for them, make sure it’s your company which remembers.
- Feel comfortable with casual calls. Have your staff think of reasons to call customers with new information and ideas, unrelated to selling or marketing, just to stay in contact. Good friends always enjoy hearing from each other, even if it’s just to say “hello.” An attitude of informal interactions is a major building block in customer relationships. You’ll know it’s working well when customers start calling your people and sharing the joy of a new baby, an engagement, or a promotion.
- Prove dependability. Some salespeople fall down in this area. Have your people make sure that when they make promises and guarantees, they keep them. Customers love to hear these magic sentences: “I’ll take full responsibility for that,” and, “Consider it done.” Faithful salespeople yield faithful customers.
- Serve, serve, serve. Convey to your reps the importance of putting the customers’ needs before anything else. Perhaps your customers rely on your product or service after normal business hours. Therefore, have your reps give them their home number and pager. This is like giving the customer an insurance policy. It’s unlikely that it will be used. However, it’s reassuring to clients.
- Give thanks for bad news. We usually celebrate successful deals and let customers know how much their business means to us. However, what happens when we lose an order to a competitor, or the client’s cash flow limits their buying power? Do we say, “Too bad, let’s move on to where the money is?” In my business, like most businesses, every proposal does not provide me with new income. Even with the rejections, I show appreciation by sending a note of thanks for their consideration. This has resulted in business later that was unexpected.
- Avoid “dark corners”. It’s been said that ugly things grow in dark corners. If something is going wrong, don’t wait until the last minute to inform customers. Timeliness is everything. Often we delay in giving people bad news, which only makes matter worse. When trouble appears, encourage your people to shed some “light” on the problem before it’s too late. Even if there isn’t a solution available, by letting the customer know that every effort is being made, you’re keeping the relationship open and honest.
- You gotta have heart. Our reps need to remember that selling is done with both the head and the heart. Keep other people’s feelings in mind. When people do business there is an emotional element to the process. Customers ask themselves, “Is this really the best decision?”, or “This seems good now, but will it stay that way?” When customers buy from us we need to remember sometimes working with us is not just a business decision. Our product or service might even cost more than a competitor’s. However, since we’ve built a relationship with them, it’s that relationship that keeps us in their good graces.
Think thanks. We must all remember to thank people for what they do that helps our lives. It’s like giving them a rare and special gift. One would think it’s elementary, but stop now and think of the times that you’ve helped or reached out to someone and gotten no word of thanks in return. I’m sure you’ll agree it does leave you with an unpleasant memory.
Now I would like to share with you one of the key reasons of my success with relationship management.
In research I’ve conducted in my seminars with salespeople, I’ve asked , “Do you send out personal notes to your clients?” I’ve also inquired, “How many of you receive notes from clients or business associates?” The response indicates that few people take this practice seriously. As a follow-up, I ask, “When you have received notes of appreciation, how does that make you feel?” I suspect you already know the answer to this last question.
In building relationships, with desiring a consistent positive attitude, we have many opportunities to stay in front of our customers with a handwritten note. Yes, handwritten. In today’s fast-paced and technical world, it’s important to keep the personal touch. I’m talking about short notes that communicate a thoughtfulness that cannot be duplicated with any other correspondence.
To maximize the potential of this correspondence I suggest that you and your people use my “power of three.” This relationship building tool works by taking 15 minutes at the beginning or the end day and writing three cards or notes. Send one to a prospect that you’re trying to start a relationship with, one to a client just to say hello, and one to a business friend to say thanks. We sometimes forget that the people we work with or meet in our industry are very helpful in building our business and can in fact help us. You can also include an article they may find of interest. By the end of the week, you’ll have made 15 “goodwill” contacts, and by the end of the year the total will be 750. Think of the “business seeds” you’ll have planted. Some will definitely germinate into additional business.
Keep in mind that in order for your people to have a positive attitude toward relationship marketing, it starts with you. The tactics listed in the article also apply to the relationships you are building with your staff. Harvey S. Firestone said, “It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.”