To build strong relationships with clients and customers, be supportive of their goals.
Story: You’re not salespeople, you’re career builders
One day, while working as an Account Executive at GE, my Regional Manager assembled the sales team in the main conference room. Twenty of us sat listening to him describe our value proposition. “Stop thinking of yourselves as salespeople. You’re not salespeople,” he said. “You’re career builders.” I discovered that I was driven to make my clients look good and where possible help them to get a promotion. Getting the sale wasn’t everything, especially if I wanted to maintain strong relationships with my clients and customers.
Staying engaged with people you do business with, including current and past clients and customers will also help you build strong relationships.
Keys to maintaining strong relationships with clients and customers
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
- Stay engaged
- Understand the client’s industry in general and their business specifically
- Understand the client’s goals
- Quantify value
- Honor your word
- Get back to each other on a timely basis
- Give honest and timely feedback
- Make promises and deliver on them
- Make clear requests
- Minimize sharing casual opinions
- Don’t gossip about each other
Share your organization’s core sales philosophy for strong relationships with clients and customers
So how do you help your sales team maintain strong relationships? Encourage them to define what strong relationships look like. It might sound something like this:
“Thank you so much for this opportunity to present my solution on behalf of my company. I’d like to define three philosophies that we believe develop strong relationships with our clients.
- We are a feedback organization.
- We must add value.
- We’re invested in a long-term relationship.”
Then define each of these philosophies. I’m certain that this will spark some healthy dialog.
For example say, “Being a feedback organization means that we live and die on timely feedback, regardless of it being positive or negative. You may ask us to submit a proposal after this meeting. If that is the case, we simply ask that you respond to it with feedback on a timely basis.”
Can you see that any feedback is better than no feedback? This approach significantly helps to head-off radio silence. You could even say that your own organization practices the same philosophy by maintaining an open-door policy with all of its employees.
“We must add value” means that your organization is focused on providing maximum value all of the time. The salesperson could explain how this fits in the sales process by saying that you practice asking critical questions so you can understand your prospects’ challenges. This allows you to match solutions appropriately.
Saying “we are invested in a long-term relationship” indicates that strong relationships will last a long time. You might even say that losing an opportunity with a prospect or client is OK, providing that you don’t lose the relationship.
Five aspects that make strong relationships work:
- Agreeing on the scope and deliverables for what you are solving for
- Identifying who is responsible for what
- Making specific promises to each other
- Making specific requests of each other
- Aligning on intended outcomes for the client and their organization
I hope this helps you when you think about building strong relationships with your own clients and customers.
Want more on building strong relationships? Download a copy of our free eBook: Making Client Relationships Work.