Business and Operations
Building Robust Customer Relationships
By Jill J. Johnson
How taking a proactive approach makes all the difference.
By Jill J. Johnson
While today’s sales process can appear streamlined and online, it creates complexities and confusion for consumers who have vastly more options in a global marketplace. The internet has blurred traditional sales territories because consumers can now search the world for the products and services they want or need.
Finding the right one requires them to weed through many alternatives so they can make optimal purchasing decisions. Proactively building robust and trusting relationships with your customers provides opportunities to become their top advisor and go-to vendor. Anticipating potential customer service challenges will help develop a framework for resolving these issues in a manner that protects your customer relationship. Software applications and marketing automation also create opportunities for enhanced customer insight and relationship development.
Team Efforts Build Strong Customer Relationships
The most successful salespeople develop strong and lasting relationships with their customers. They focus on solving problems, not just making a transaction. They become an advisor their clients rely on for accurate information and solutions to address their needs. They are responsive and do not leave their clients hanging for answers. With this approach, you can anticipate opportunities for your customers and present new ideas when your customers are most likely ready to consider them.
Successful sales and marketing team members work closely together to create synergies among all the communications being used to connect with customers. Production and service teams must also work in sync with sales to deliver the quality order that has been promised the customer. There is nothing worse for the client relationship than a sales person making a promise that production cannot honour. In most organizations, the production or manufacturing divisions are siloed from sales. Each has their own metrics by which they are evaluated and there is often little communication among them. When that happens, the entire customer relationship can be at risk.
Enterprises that effectively calibrate and coordinate their ability to supply goods and services the customer demands will be the most successful over the long-term. They minimize waste and scrapped inventory because they are creating specific products their customers want and will buy. Sales relationships that have been strategized throughout the enterprise provide the best opportunities for gaining accurate customer intelligence on product specifications and anticipated sales volumes. The same things hold true for those selling services.
Maintaining Customer Relationships Requires Trust
When working with clients who have a long-standing relationship with your organization, it can become easy to take them for granted. Personal relationships often develop among the various parties on both sides. Frequently this evolves into a high trust relationship.
When there is a glitch in service or delivery, client relationships can be jeopardized. Clients make buying decisions based on trust. If something significant interferes with the trust relationship, the entire account can be at risk. It may be a missed delivery, inferior product quality, service glitches or price-points that are too high. When this occurs, it can be easy for everyone to assume that the relationship will resolve the issue. But when it does not, everyone must remember that business is business. The personal relationships developed with care over time can vanish when suppliers make mistakes. Both parties have their own jobs to protect and their own internal political challenges.
Often the best approach is for a vendor to operate on a “No Surprises” basis with clients. When they know there might be an issue with service or delivery, the sooner they alert the customer the more options they have to maintain the trusted relationship. Understanding the latitude and flexibility you each have when there is a problem can move you faster to finding a resolution. Perhaps it is offering a price discount for accepting some reduced quality options or including additional merchandise in the order to offset the inequity. No matter what, your client problem needs to be resolved effectively before it becomes a social media nightmare or results in the loss of a major revenue stream to your enterprise.
Effective Client Relationship Management
Building and managing relationships with your prospects and key referral sources requires effort. It is more than simply having them on your mailing list or emailing them newsletters or updates. More personal and consistent one-to-one relationships are a must in achieving your mutual goals.
You have to move from passive order-taking to developing a customer relationship focused on knowing their interests and requirements. Then match your outreach and communications to move them through their decision-making cycle. Reassess your prospect management to determine if you are relying on stale efforts that do little to move the sale forward or deepen your relationship.
Years ago, sales people tracked customer information on index cards. Today, robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has been a game changer in managing interactions with current and potential clients. CRM integration with email marketing applications can enhance sales productivity and offer options for customer personalization.
Leveraging your CRM tools helps you stay on top of customer follow-up. This requires an investment of time in capturing information into the system. Once you do this, you can take advantage of opportunities to use its robust capability for data capture and market segmentation options. These efforts will help you more effectively manage your client relationships and provides options for efficient and appropriate outreach.
Take time to review the effectiveness of your approach to customer relationship management. Don’t take your client relationships for granted. Just like any relationship, they need to be nurtured to be preserved and grown. Actively managing your customer and prospect interactions creates more opportunities for engagement. Each engagement takes you one step closer to closing another sale or selling a bigger deal than you can currently imagine. Being your customers’ subject matter expert, anticipating their needs before they do and doing their homework for them is essential to successful and lasting customer relationships. Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional – rather than just someone who manages transactions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.