A salesperson calls or emails, some kind of discussion follows, something is purchased and, at a later date, it all happens again.
This may be the script we all have in our heads when we think about what a salesperson-client relationship looks like, but there are plenty of ways to rewrite it.
A lot of the other ways to build and nurture a relationship in sales may be equally familiar, though they can certainly still work.
Taking them out to lunch, drinks or dinner can be a less formal and generous way to have a conversation (as long as it jives with their company policies).
After a sale, or if a customer praises you to your manager, a handwritten note beats an email or text message every time.
Instead of whisking them to your office or a generic boardroom, offering a tour of the company can be more welcoming. Examples could include a lab if you work in health care or research, or a plant if you work in a manufacturing company.
You’ve probably experienced these and other approaches when you’ve been a customer yourself.
What’s great about customer relationships is that they represent fertile ground to be innovative — you’re only limited by your imagination in how you could get to know them better, and to earn their trust over time.
Amid the day-to-day work of prospecting, pitching and following up, it may not be easy to come up with new ideas. To that end, we’ve come up with a few you might not have tried before, and which can be a jumping-off point for future brainstorming:
Some of your customers might have their own personal assistants to organize their schedules and take messages, but keeping on top of the news and trends that really affect their work is another matter.
Consider the impression it could make if you were to occasionally send an email with links to three articles you know contain insight to help them grow their business, reduce costs or help their internal culture to evolve in positive ways.
Instead of constantly suggesting new products to buy or services to try out, you’re demonstrating you’ve listened to what concerns them and are ready to provide the best information you can. When you do that, they begin to look at you as more of an advisor than a sales pro.
Did your customer expand into a new geographic region, or even open up an additional location nearby? Spread news on Twitter or LinkedIn so that others might learn and become interested in them.
Did your customer write a blog post where they’re trying to make an argument or shift the thinking in their community? Don’t just “like” it — share it with your own followers and give them a genuine reason to read it.
Is your customer speaking at an industry event? Live-tweet their key points, or do a quick video you can include in your Instagram story or on Facebook.
A lot of what people do professionally to build their brand (or that of their company) involves an uphill battle in terms of promotion. Any assistance in this area will be deeply appreciated.
Your customer probably works for an organization that has more than its own interests at heart. Maybe they’re taking part in a tree-planting program to improve the state of the environment. They might be raising money through a corporate matching program to alleviate poverty or homelessness. They could simply be trying to raise awareness about a social issue by holding an event.
When these activities are underway, do the obvious but often overlooked thing. Show up. Contribute. Take part in ways that really show your support.
This is not about quid pro quo, but simply being open to doing good when the opportunity arises.
You may still rely a lot on paper forms, or ways of handling information that require going to and from your office.
Then, as part of getting to know a client, you discover they seem to do almost everything from their smartphone.
If you decide to work with your team to make your own mobile apps because of it, feel free to let them know they inspired you.
Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is less about flattery than learning from the people who do business with you.
As a sales pro, you have the benefit of knowing lots of people, and some of those people are not just of interest to your organization.
You might have a customer that is trying to solve a problem one of your other customers handled long ago. Make the introduction.
If your customer is trying to hire someone great, arrange a meeting with someone you know would fit the bill.
In some cases, you might even become aware of a customer that would use the products, services or expertise of one of your other customers.
When you help build their business, they may be more open to building yours.
Customers aren’t just on a customer journey — they’re on a larger professional journey.
Examples here include working on a major digital transformation project, restructuring after a merger or acquisition, or simply preparing to make a presentation to their CEO.
Without being nosey or inappropriate, check in with your good wishes right before their deadline looms, or afterwards when they’re ready to celebrate what happened. A relationship is based on paying attention to each other.
When sales people act more like colleagues, customers might almost think of them as work friends. And when that happens, don’t be surprised if you start coming up with even more unconventional ways to make the relationship even stronger.