Nibbling on opponents during a game of football isn't cool. You know what is, though? Building long lasting business relationships. Like with any other relationship, building a strong one between you and your clients doesn't come easy, but needs to be done. What are the key things to keep in mind? We combined five steps from Inc. and Entrepreneur that we agree are the most important ones when establishing and improving long lasting relationships with your clients.
1. Make relationships your priority
The guys at Inc. know that customers immediately sense if you're using them (and the relationship) to work your own agenda.
Put the relationship first and treat it as more important than making the sale, because your customers will also sense you've got their best interests at heart.
Also, by doing that, you're making a decision to make selling more fun. Building great relationships is not just good business, it's also great fun.
Consider: wouldn't you rather spend time with people whom you like (and who like you in return) rather than trying to manipulate people into buying stuff they don't need?
2. Let customers know what you are doing for them
Entrepreneur makes a good point of showing your clients the lengths you're going for them. This can be in the form of a newsletter mailed to existing customers, or it can be more informal, such as a phone call. Whatever method you use, the key is to dramatically point out to customers what excellent service you are giving them.
If you never mention all the things you’re doing for them, customers may not notice. You are not being over-confident when you talk to customers about all the work you have done to please them. Just make a phone call and let them know they don’t have to worry because you handled the paperwork, called the solicitor or double-checked the shipment -- one less thing they have to do.
3. Be consistent and reliable
People only offer loyalty to those whom they trust. Customers decide whether to trust you based upon your day-to-day behavior. If it's unpredictable, they'll shy away. If it's consistent over time, they'll know you can be counted on. At the same time, though, let yourself be vulnerable. Pretending to be Superman just alienates people.
Building a relationship requires discovering the areas where you and your customer can work best together. This is only possible if you're willing to admit your weaknesses and limitations while at the same time working around them and still finding the best possible solution.
4. Have real conversations
Inc. states something that we at PARiM also strongly believe in - a customer meeting should be a conversation and never a "sales call." Always spend more time listening to the customer rather than talking to the customer. (And never, ever talk at a customer. No sales pitches!). Entrepreneur agrees with keeping it personal - voice mail and email make it easy to communicate, but the personal touch is lost.
So, don't count these as a legitimate follow-up. If you're having trouble getting through, leave a voice-mail message that you want to talk to the person directly or will stop by his or her office at a designated time.
5. Get curious about people
People are drawn to those who show a true interest in them. Honest (but non-intrusive) curiosity helps you understand how you can better help your customers, while giving you the opportunity to learn new things and make new connections.
Get to know your client's business and industry as well as the people responsible for it. You don’t have to be an expert, but this will help you understand your client better and build your relationship and communication accordingly.
Here's an infographic courtesy of Inc. to further highlight why and how you should build a strong relationship with your customers: