Building Relationships with Today’s Customers

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Relationship selling is about creating positive, lasting impressions with customers.  For example, Carrabba’s Italian Grill is one of my favorite restaurants in Knoxville.  During our 22nd anniversary, my wife and I celebrated there.  Our waitress was very attentive to our needs.  In terms of positioning, I think the restaurant is above Olive Garden.  

Yet, even though I had a high level of praise for this business, I became a little irritated when our waitress took a break and left us unattended.  It took us some time to get over that situation.  Therefore, customer satisfaction can be a little fickle and make a customer-centric approach difficult. 

Building relationships with customers is very important for sustainable success for businesses.  However, some customers have a negative reaction to the seller-buyer interactions (i.e. salespersons in retail pressuring customers to buy).  Although selling is about business transactions, selling is also about building relationships. Consequently, the concept of relationship selling is a hot commodity in a hypercompetitive environment. 

 

For this blog, we will examine the basic concept of relationship selling.  Relationship selling requires somewhat different skills than traditional selling as it involves securing, building, and maintaining long-term relationships with profitable customers. 

Furthermore, many organizations simply do not consider customers when planning their sales strategy.  Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, share four relationship mistakes by businesses which are (1) wasting customer’s time, (b) behaving  as a victim instead of an employed salesperson, (3) lacking the understanding of the customer’s business, and (4) bringing problems instead of solutions to the job. 

For example, Carrabba’s Italian Grill failed to adequately address our needs due to a focus on their internal operations rather than how to maximize their profit.  However, it is only due to relationship selling that we will go back. 

Furthermore, Paul Peter and James Donnelly, authors of Marketing Management, suggest that profitable marketing begins with understanding customer needs. Yet, it is a trait that is not gained by accident.  Being a professional in a highly technical field, we are required to possess certain skills and abilities. Finally, serious businesses cannot afford to master the concepts of selling relationships. It should begin today!

 Please discuss your personal experience with relationship selling.

 © 2013 by Daryl D. Green

 

Relationship Selling Toward Greater Profitability in the Future

Is America in trouble?  On a daily basis we are being required to answer that question both subconsciously and openly by today’s media pundits.  Recent economic reports have shown vulnerabilities in the United States economic engine including everything from manufacturing to consumer spending. 

Even the latest positive economic news brings another sequence of gloom. For example, the job rate ticked down in July, 2011; however, American businesses are not creating enough jobs. With unemployment still hovering over 9%, most people do not feel there  is much to be happy about related to the job outlook.    

One of the smartest ways to retool the economy is by selling more products and services to domestic and international markets.  Therefore, the art of selling becomes a critical competitive advantage to organizations that want to sustain profitability over the long-term. Selling is a common denominator for every business. No matter what business you are in, you must sell your product or services to customers. 

Yet, the concept of selling is related to creating value for customers.  When a bakery gives an extra donut in a dozen, the company is adding value and fosters better relationships with customers.  Given these realities, selling is a people-oriented business that addresses the customer value proposition. 

Relationship skills can make or break important connections.  Dr. Dave Hinkes, co-author of Selling by Objectives: The Handbook for More Profitability in the 21st Century, often advises his Fortune 500 clients to stay connected with their customers.  Dr. Hinkes and I worked hard on this project.

 

We further prescribe a relationship selling model based on several key elements which include branding, quality, flexibility, reliability, creativity, simplicity, efficiency, and price. Dr. Hinkes adds: “If you can practice or role play your responses to these objectives originating from any source, then you will find that you will be closing more deals, building more wealth, and saving time and effort in the process.” 

For businesses, it is important to understand human behavior in order to building lasting relationships. Therefore, relationship selling and sales management are interconnected. Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, note the importance of these connections: “The managers in the sales organization have taken time to think through the most efficient and effective way to manage the customer side of the business”.  

With competitors on each global corner, today’s businesses cannot afford to lose customers or markets.  Staying connected with customers is critical for sustainability.  Relationship selling is a good method for organizations to use.

Like any relationship, there is a degree of tension involved in selling due to the need for solutions. The tension may be positive or negative depending on how much exists or how it is handled.  Businesses that can balance these conflicting interests will have an advantage over their competitors and an opportunity for greater profitability.

Please discuss your professional experience with this topic. 

© 2012 by Daryl D. Green


[1] “Double-dip odds on the rise” by Scott Patterson