What’s the secret to getting and keeping customers? It hasn’t changed much since business began. No matter what tools or technology you have access to, attracting and retaining customers boils down to building lasting relationships. All else being equal, people do business with people they know and like. So how can you start a new customer relationship off on the right foot?
Finding customers through referrals is half the battle to building relationships. When you and your new prospect have someone in common, the relationship is off to a good start. You’ve got something to talk about, and your prospect has someone who can vouch for your skills and qualifications to do the job. Social media has made it easier than ever to get introduced, but don’t keep your new relationship digital—take it offline by meeting in person if possible.
Make a good first impression.
Whether you meet a new prospect through connections or not, it’s crucial to start off on the right foot when you meet in person. Be friendly, warm and interested. Be alert to things you have in common (an alma mater, a sports team, children) and comment on them to build a bond. Ask the person about themselves—there’s no sweeter subject for most people.
Be a good listener.
Many business owners think sales success is all about talking, but the best salespeople—those who know how to build relationships—know how to listen. There’s a saying that people have two ears and one mouth to remind us to listen more than we talk. By listening, you’ll not only learn insights about the prospect or customer’s needs that can help you sell to them, you’ll also build a reputation for being a fascinating conversationalist, and customers will enjoy being around you. They will notice that you are focused on their needs.
After your initial meeting with a prospect, make sure you follow up with an email, message on social media or even a phone call. Be friendly and personal, not just sales-oriented. Tapping into technology can help you follow up so customers and prospects don’t fall through the cracks—use CRM (customer relationship management) software like Batchbook, Insightly or ZohoCRM to capture key information about customers, remind you to follow up and even automate the follow-up.
Be a friend.
It may sound silly, but thinking of prospects and customers like friends can help build relationships. Like you would with a friend, keep customers in mind by remembering and reaching out to them on special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries), checking in with them on social media, making plans to get together for lunch or coffee once in a while, and sending them information you think they’d be interested in, like links to articles or news.
By taking steps to build lasting relationships with customers, you’ll find your circle of customers growing naturally on its own.