Its one thing to build a good rapport with your clients, but it’s an entirely different thing to build a solid and meaningful relationship. Knowing what your customer needs from you and how you can best provide a product or service is obviously paramount to your success in closing a sale, but I believe that if you don’t take the time to really get to know your client, you will miss out on many additional opportunities.
I have always tried to learn very quickly the following things about my clients.
1) What is the nature of their business? What do they do? Ask for a tour of their facility or get some reading materials from them that will explain things in detail.
2) Apart from their immediate needs for your products or services, what other needs and challenges do they have? Your experience or contacts might be very useful to them. Some questions you might ask include:
- What is the nature of their industry/sector?
- What are the governing market dynamics that are impacting their business?
- When will these governing market dynamics begin to impact their business?
- What are their unique and specific needs?
- What are their future plans for growth?
3) What are their hobbies and interests? Are they married? Do they have kids? Pets? What kind of music do they like? Do they enjoy golf or hockey or football?
Knowing these things always puts you in a position to help. For instance, I once had a client who purchased 100’s of computers from me. He had a number of challenges with the deployment of other technologies which fell way outside of my scope but I knew several good people who could help. I offered to make introductions and within a few weeks his problems had been solved for a fraction of what it might otherwise have cost him. He was very grateful and shared much more with me as time went on. He purchased many hundreds of additional computers and servers from me and in time became one of the best friends I have ever had. As a side note, a very capable colleague of mine who had done business with this person for many years had no idea about his personal life, likes, dislikes etc. He asked me, “how did you find THAT out”? I replied, I simply asked!
Another client had a child who was having great difficulties learning his music theory in school. Being a musician myself and having done some teaching in the past, I was able to provide some lessons that I had written years before. His son’s grades improved and he was very grateful. This particular client did not purchase a thing from me at first but in time went on to do a huge amount of business with me.
On the flip side, I had a customer who was a national level director in the Telecom sector. He went on a business trip to China and we met shortly after his return. He handed me a gift, a framed pewter plaque with the Chinese word for fortune engraved on the front and a really nice letter written in his own hand writing on the back. It sits on my desk to this day and although both of us have moved on to different things, we stay in touch.
Demonstrating an interest in your clients business is something they will respect. Some clients don’t open up that easily though. If they won’t share personal details about themselves, don’t force the issue, but it does not stop you from giving that client some glimpses into your life. As you get to know them, tell them more about yourself. You’d be surprised how many people will open up and when they do, you will deepen your relationship and build trust. When you have trust, you have a tremendous advantage over your competitors.
A few additional thoughts to consider on this topic:
Whatever you are selling, you can only talk about it for so long. Getting to know your clients makes the whole experience more fun and much more rewarding. Sure, the sale is a good thing, but relationships are far more important in the long run.
Don’t limit this thinking to just clients. How well do you know your friends? Your team mates? Your band members?
There is a richness to everyone’s life that will enrich our own if we will but listen.
The violin lesson – by Wolfgang Lonien on Flickr – Some Rights Reserved
First published at synaptici