By Beth Valdettaro, Director of Sales & Client Services
They call it “Customer Relationship Management” for a reason. Gone are the days of simple transactional sales. Gone are the days of expensive customer dinners and entertainment. Today, the primary purpose for a sales team, is to develop business by relating and consulting with current and prospective customers. If you put the relationship first, the natural bi-product will be customer wins and client satisfaction.
It’s easy to keep the connection between customer and sales fluid during a current program, but what about that lull between active programs when it is easy for both parties to forget one another? Just like any relationship – good customer service requires work constant attention. Keeping a company brand top-of-mind with a few purposeful touch points engages with the prospect/customer on an elevated connection level and establishes long-term relationships.
Below are tips on how to build meaningful relationships and utilize purposeful outreach to always stay connected:
Relationships Begin with Listening
Great relationships start with being a good listener and recognizing the nuances of what is being communicated. Is the individual talking about how busy their life is, a recent vacation, their family, or changes in the workplace? Are there special activities or interests that he or she focuses on? Does the contact follow or play a favorite sport. Taking note of these topics will solidify the relationship in the future. All connections need a purpose. It’s as simple as that. Good manners, sincerity, respect and interest is present in all successful relationships.
A company brand can be kept in front of the prospect/customer by using many available resources. Establish a clear, direct line of communication between your client and their client service representative. By making an email introduction you allow for an easy exchange of contact information and a friendly greeting. Providing a cell phone number to a customer gives them a sense of confidence that they can always get help when they need it. For example, Fineline has a uniform signature block that reinforces our mission to “improve clients’ businesses’” and all direct contact information.
2. Thoughtful Gratitude
After a first appointment, write a personal thank you note recapping the call and expressing appreciation for the individual’s time is always appropriate for new business. Get personally connected by remembering a prospect/customer’s “special day” like their birthday or anniversary. Send a personal card for these and other congratulatory events. Making someone feel special is an important key in all relationships.
Send a company-branded promotional item in a clever package or gift bag with your card. Don’t take it along on a personal visit, send it separately and use the item for connecting on another day. A connection can be made with something as simple as a company logo coffee mug with a note asking, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” Small electronic promotional items are also ideal for communicating the “connection” message. Even traditional pens, notepads and calendars work because everyone still uses them and they often sit on the prospect/customer’s desk as a daily brand impression.
Everyone has to eat. Find out when a prospect/customer has their weekly staff meeting and provide refreshments. Donuts and coffee for a morning meeting, cookies for an afternoon session are easy to drop off. Substitute cut fruit for a healthier or vegetarian alternative. Always supply the necessary tableware (in company logo colors) along with a friendly note. If a prospect/customer is too busy to have lunch, send lunch in to them and their staff. Create a theme, graphic for a PDF invitation and arrange for food and beverages to be paid in advance and delivered.
Keeping a variety of spare cards, promotional items and lunch vendors streamlines your consistent connections. To make it even easier, consider assigning an individual to manage this process through a running list from the entire sales team.
3. Updated Contact Information
Making sure that contact information for both prospects and customers is current and updated in your company CRM allows you to stay in front of current and past clients. Setting aside five minutes each day to make contact list updates will streamline your sales touch points and provide downstream value. Avoid being the individual who can’t participate in marketing programs because of something as simple as updated contact information.
4. Social Activity
Pay attention to social media. It is not necessary to be Facebook Friends with your customers (unless of course you want to), however, it is professionally appropriate to use LinkedIn to invite the individual to connect with you. Posting your company blogs and related articles is an easy way to provide relevant industry information to your prospects and clients. Active participation in LinkedIn, Twitter and other social mediums can result in increased awareness for your brand to current customers, as well as prospects through sharing.
5. Event Participation
Include customers in industry events, seminars, or gatherings. If they have a special nonprofit effort, offer to support it too. From volunteering to sponsorship, helping their cause creates a win-win connection with customers. If they are an animal lover, support the local Humane Society. If they participate in a fundraising walk, sponsor their team. Provide a sign for an important event or even better, volunteer time alongside the customer for an afternoon.
6. Co-branded Marketing
Make a customer famous by preparing a Case Study of a project that was completed for them and generated success. Always request permission first to publish the information and any images. Offer to print and provide copies of the Case Study for their own use.
7. Educational Resources
Offer to provide customers with an educational session complete with resources and a professional industry-relevant presentation. Showing expertise and securing multiple contacts within a customer’s organization generates the opportunity for partnerships.
In addition to providing excellent service, a quality product, innovation and solutions, nothing solidifies two businesses together like layering the relationship with the building blocks of good manners, sincerity, respect and interest.
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