Relationships are crucial to success in business and life, but many people seem to be unaware of this fact. Ask any successful businessperson about how they got where they are and they will invariably tell you about their relationships with mentors, colleagues and customers.
I have witnessed people trying to work in my field who appear to have zero awareness of the need to develop and nurture their contacts. I have been a salesman my whole career, and what I find is that people either understand the concept of relationships or they don't. If they don't, they haven't been very successful in their careers. It's that simple.
From what I have seen, many key corporate officers of companies that do business in the healthcare industry don't seem to grasp the fundamental dictum that you must stay close to your customers. It isn't a deliberate policy; it's just that these people have no idea that having close relationships with customers is the basic ingredient that makes any organization successful in the long run. Maybe the reason for this is that society has changed and we have fewer interactions with others. It seems that technology-e-mail, the Internet, television-has a way of actually hindering the kind of interpersonal contact that is the key to building solid relationships. It could be that we are all being asked to do more these days. Everybody feels more stressed. What I am talking about, however, reduces stress. It feels good to get out there and interact with real people, face to face. And it pays off as well.
I am often asked how to go about getting close to customers. I always tell them that while there are many ways and each person may have his or her own style of developing and nurturing relationships, there are a few common themes.
First of all, make frequent but meaningful contact. For example, telling a client about a potential new customer for them can cement a good relationship. For example, you may have heard that an architectural firm has been asked to do a rendering of a new women's hospital. You might tell this to a client, adding, "I thought you would want to know because they'll need plenty of those new birthing beds that your company has just developed. Just thought you would want to know." That kind of market information can be vital to any vendor selling goods and services to hospitals. It's the kind of thing that tells a client that you really care about them and are willing to help them in their selling efforts.
Another method of establishing a good relationship with a customer is the personal touch. If you take a client to dinner, tell them to bring along a spouse and make it a special occasion. Also, find out clients' birthdays and anniversaries and send cards on those days to congratulate them. It makes the person feel special, and people always remember those who make that happen. Another tactic is sending a client who golfs some balls with your company's logo emblazoned on them. It's a nice little touch.
The key to all of this is sincerity. You have to really mean it. Business relationships are a form of personal relationship. If you care about others, you have no problem doing the little things that keep the relationship going. If someone has a tough break in his or her job, such as being fired, call him or her and let them know you care. Don't be a phony; the person on the other end of the phone will sense your lack of sincerity. You would be surprised how some individuals who are down and out today will end up somewhere else where they make purchasing decisions and they'll remember your kindness when they need support.
I know companies that spend an inordinate amount of money on product development and new marketing strategies while almost ignoring their current customers. They forget they have competitors who want a piece of their current market share and are willing to pounce when they see that kind of weakness. When valued clients of many years feel they are being taken for granted, they may suddenly start listening to a new vendor. So never forget your core business and the customers who depend on it. Let them know they have your attention.
Be available 24/7. Give a client not only your cell phone number but also your home number. That shows total commitment to the needs of your customer. People love that kind of openness and sincerity on your part. It shows a willingness to go the extra mile for a client and it shows that you are on the job (at least mentally) all the time. Even if the client doesn't call you at home, it's the idea that you are that involved that counts.
All of the things I have mentioned can help you establish meaningful and lasting relationships but unless you are willing to give of yourself and put all of these ideas into practice don't expect long-term success in business. I know people who to this day keep in touch with many of their former clients who are now retired because they are still some of their best friends. That's the kind of commitment I am talking about. Give of yourself and it will be returned to you in a hundred different ways.
Customers love attention,