…to love them first.
When I was in training to be a psychotherapist, we learned two basic things.
- 1. Find something to like about each client.
2. If things aren’t improving, see #1.
Of course, we learned about theories, interventions, assessments, and so on. However, at the most basic level, if we did not like our clients, we were not going to be very helpful to them. Around the same time, research was starting to come out that showed that the quality of the relationship between the therapist and client was the biggest predictor of successful treatment outcomes.
What does this story have to do with your business and customer relationships?
Today we talk a lot about customer relationships and relationship selling, but we talk very little about the basic tenets of connecting with other human beings. We fail to develop relationships with people in our target market and then wonder why our organizations aren’t succeeding. After all, the first word in relationship selling is RELATIONSHIP. At the foundation of every healthy relationship (personal or professional) is a positive feeling whether you call it like, love, respect, admiration, or something else.
So maybe it’s not the economy. Maybe things aren’t working in your business because you don’t really have a relationship with your customers.
Sometimes I hear other business owners talking about customers in their target market and I wonder, “Do you even like your customers?” Or I think back to my own experiences of being a customer and the way I am treated and think, “Do you even want me to be your customer?”
How do you go about liking the people in your target market? And developing better customer relationships?
Spend time getting to know your customers.
You can’t like your customer if you know nothing about him or her. Getting to know your target market takes time and energy.
Quick activity. Think about how many hours on average per day you spend thinking about your products, services, systems, processes, and financials. Write that number down. Now, think about how many hours on average per day you spend getting to know your customers better. Write that number down. Which number is bigger? I bet it is the former number.
You may be thinking: But Ursula, I have to concentrate on my business if I want to make money. Yes I understand that mindset. But what would happen to your perspective if you put the word “customer” in place of “business?”
“I have to concentrate on my customer if I want to make money.” Ahhh…now you are getting to a different place.
Intimately knowing the customers in your target market is the key to success. As the great Peter Drucker said in his book Management, “The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. He alone gives employment.” (p. 61) Drucker knew this in 1973!
Work on your customer relationships more than once or twice a year AND outside of your selling or work with them.
If you only pay attention to your customer when YOU need to, you are invoking the business equivalent of a booty call. They will feel disrespected, used, and unappreciated if you only relate to them when your cash flow is low or you need a referral or testimonial. These are obviously not the ideal conditions for starting the next sales conversation; the conversation in which you will want to position yourself as caring about the needs of your target market. Your customers will see through your conditional “love” and not buy it nor your product or service.
Moral of the story: Love your customers first and not just once a year.