All sales at its core is based, at least in part, on relationship selling. If customers don’t trust or like a salesperson, they will buy elsewhere, whether they’re purchasing a pack of gum at a convenience store or modernizing an HVAC system.
If the checkout person is cold and nasty, you will buy your gum elsewhere; the same is true for other types of sales.
The key is finding customers you honestly like. People are drawn to others who are of like mind or have similar characteristics, experiences, or beliefs. You cannot fake liking someone; people can tell a fake.
If you are working with a customer but just putting up with them because their business is good, chances are it will not last long. The casual business that you do with someone you are not close with is business that is at risk. You need to find common interests, things you both like.
Get to know your customers. I mean, really know your customers. I am friends with my customers on Facebook and other social media sites. You think I don’t have something to talk about with my customers who are active on social media? Most salespeople don’t think to ask to be friended on a social media site with a customer, but by doing so you break down walls and really get to know one another.
I have customers I’ve hunted with on multiple occasions. We have roughed it out in the woods, woke up in the dark, and hunted all day together — and had a blast (pun intended)! Do you think the customers I hunt with will drop me if a lower price comes along? No way; I will always be given a chance to earn the business, to keep that working relationship intact.
The truth is, life is short, and people like to do business with people they like. It makes work life more enjoyable. If you think about your top customers, chances are they are also the customers you like the most and are the closest with. That is no accident. If you are honestly well-liked, the business will come to you.
Your job becomes so much better if you’re doing business with people you honestly like and respect. It makes running sales calls that much more enjoyable. I have stronger connections with some customers than others, and I realize the ones with whom my relationship is not strong means my sales with that company could disappear.
Top relationship-building tips:
- Become friends with customers on social media sites as much as possible.
- Look for things you have in common and look to strengthen your relationships. It is not hard. Do you have kids or grandkids the same age? Like the same hobbies?
- Invite your customers to an event that the two of you can then have in common. Enjoy a night out.
- Celebrate milestones with your customers, whatever the milestones might be.
If you are able to break through the salesperson/customer relationship and become friends with your customers, you have just earned a chance to really grow your sales. But you still need to provide outstanding service and value.
I have lost customers who were also friends because we had bad service problems. It is miserable to lose customers that way, but once you fix the issue, you have a much better shot at getting them back if they’re friends, too. I’ve remained friends with people I’ve lost as customers, because if you really are a friend, then you will remain so; you may just see each other less due to the loss of the working relationship.
I make sure I understand why the customer is leaving, and almost every time that this has happened (thank goodness it is not often), I agree with the customer and would also have shopped elsewhere, because we were not able to fix a problem that kept recurring and affecting the customer’s business.
You might be the best of friends, but if your company is making a ton of mistakes that are costing your friend time and money, you need to do right by that person. I’d let them know that I will only reach back out when I know for sure that we have this problem fixed. The customer/friend will appreciate your honesty in looking out for their best interests. I 100% believe that great salespeople should always be looking out for the best interests of their customers.
If you do this, and you’re friends with the customers, you will become a trusted advisor for their companies, which is the best possible position a salesperson could ever be in.
The bottom line is, you really need to get to know your customers and learn what makes them tick, find the similarities, and have fun together. If you do these things, you will find that not only will your sales increase substantially, but you will enjoy selling so much more.