We can all agree that we are living in a challenging economy. I cannot count the number of times I have been told by various and sundry supervisors and managers, “You have to do ‘more’ with less…”
So, being the “glass is half full” person who I am, I have continued to push forward by doing MORE with less. I have discovered over the course of my business experience that when times are tough or circumstances are spinning out of my control (i.e. a stagnant or down-turned economy) that the best thing I can do for myself, and my business, is to slow down and do what my father calls “getting back to the basics.”
Again, I think we can all agree that there is no more basic concept than that of treating others as we would like to be treated. For me, this is the very foundation of “relationship” selling, and a very effective way to “do more with less” by concentrating on my established client base.
In today’s competitive environment, retaining your client base is critical for your success. If you don’t give your clients some compelling reasons to stay, your competition will give them very compelling reasons to leave. The simplest reason, of course, is price point. Price isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the reason that any client would leave your fold. However, many a client can be lured away from your cozy little nest by a sweet talkin’ salesman who can sell similar products at lower prices.
By constantly taking your product(s) and wrapping it in the brightly colored packaging of superior client service which only you can provide; in other words… treat your client the way you want to be treated, price point, while still important, will become a mute point. Client retention and satisfaction is the very backbone of YOUR profit. Cultivating your existing client base and selling more services to them is far less expensive than seeking new, single-transaction clients.
Surveys across most industries indicate that keeping ONE existing client is five to seven times more profitable than attracting one new client. Traditional advertising is now more expensive and less effective in reaching your client than ever and direct marketing does nothing to assist you in creating or building these ever more important “relationships.” These strategies only inundate your already fatigued client with one product campaign after another.
Finally, mass and direct marketing channels are extremely overcrowded with others, all vying for the same clients. We are all looking for new and imaginative ways to reach our client…why not focus on relationships we have already worked so hard to obtain? Here are some tips that will help you keep your clients when everyone around you is losing theirs.
1. Really Listen. Don’t sell your client a product or service just to be selling something. Truly listen to your client to help them uncover a need. Your client needs something from you or he wouldn’t be in your store, on your phone or reading your catalog. He may not know what he needs or he may not know that you have the exact item or service that would meet his need. He is looking to you for guidance, advice and problem-solving. Make it your mission to gently lead him into telling you what he is trying to accomplish. Then educate him about ways that your product or service will not only meet his individual need(s), but will meet it better than any other product or service in the marketplace today. Why? Because not only is he buying your product; he is essentially “buying” you. Your expertise and knowledge and the way you meet your client’s need can ONLY be supplied by you. Anyone can stock products and move them out the door. YOU are the difference between your business and your competitors.
2. Educate your client. Be as knowledgeable about your product or service as you can be and proudly let your client know why you have the best product or service to meet his need(s). People want to feel important and they want to know that you have expertise on their work or life issue. The more you demonstrate your specific understanding of a client’s problems, concerns and aspirations, the more quickly he will buy from you. It is not important that your client completely understand your product or everything you do for him, or can do for him. It is important that he feels comfortable with your understanding of his needs and vision and leaves the experience knowing that YOU are an expert on your product and that you thoroughly understand and believe in your own knowledge, expertise and ability to meet his needs.
3. Keep your word. This one is simple. If you say you will do it, DO IT. Nothing destroys trust more quickly than being on the receiving end of a broken promise. Will you always be able to keep your word? For the most part, yes, but accidents do happen. If you discover that you’ve breached a promise, no matter how large or small, be the first to address the issue and get it resolved immediately. This is a simple thing to do and goes miles in maintaining trust in ANY relationship in life. Make it your priority to always keep your word.
4. Establish and Build Rapport. You cannot influence someone unless he or she likes you in some way. Rapport is our way of expressing our acceptance of another’s point of view. It is the process of sustaining a relationship, any relationship, through trust. That doesn’t mean you should be a “phony” or pretend to be someone you are not in order to get someone to buy into what you are selling. If such an attitude is accepted even once and manages to still produce the outcome you are seeking, it will only serve to shut you down next time you approach. No trust will be created and no true rapport will be established. Rapport is like integrity in my estimation, you either have it or you don’t. It’s an innate ability to connect with others on a mental level that allows comfort and trust to easily establish between you. If we feel understood, we will open up and give trust to others more easily. Trust is the position from which we create and sustain our most valuable client base. But you must remember that rapport is a two-way street; we cannot influence others without being open to influence ourselves. Rapport is NOT a “sales tool.” It should be your way of dealing with people constantly, inside business and out, as opposed to slipping into your “client rapport” mode as a sales technique or as a means of dealing with a difficult situation. Having rapport with your clients does not mean that you will always agree, but it will serve as a foundation for a long lasting relationship. With trust as a basis for the relationship and respect for each other’s opinion and point of view, the ground work that will allow you to solve any issues that may arise as a result of your doing business together can be laid.
These difficult times require that we each make MORE happen out of fewer and fewer opportunities. The value of “relationship” selling is its increasing return on your sales investment. Even if the only investment you have made in your previous sales efforts is time, that is more than you should be willing to waste.
If you can build your relationships with existing clients and sell additional products and services to them, you aren’t repeating your efforts by prospecting, information gathering and rapport building. So, retaining clients and repeat sales ARE less expensive to generate than new clients. The simplest way I know to accomplish any of this lies in those few words at the beginning…treat others the way you want to be treated.