Seven Steps to Strong Customer Relationships.

Last Updated Dec 11, 2007 8:51 AM EST

Strong Customer RelationshipsWant to build strong customer relationships? Yesterday I explained the importance of being trustworthy, but that's only half the picture. If you're going to develop strong relationships, your actions and day-to-day behavior must reflect your character. Here's are seven action items that, if followed, will definitely result in better ...customer relationships:
  1. Believe that relationships are important. I don't want to go all crunchy-granola on you, but the truth is that people can tell if you're really serious about building relationships or just going through the motions. If you don't really want to have a relationship, don't bother pretending, 'cause it won't work.
  2. Get curious about people. It is simple human nature that people are drawn to those who show a true interest in them. And curiosity gives you the opportunity to learn new things and make new connections. Seriously, it's more fun than, say, watching TV. Always something new and surprising.
  3. Act in a consistent manner. A customer's ability to trust you (and thus be willing to share a relationship) is dependent upon showing the customer that your behavior is consistent and persistent over time. When a customer can predict your behavior, that customer is more likely to invest you with trust.
  4. Treat meetings as relationship-building opportunities. Well, duh. But remember, when it comes to relationships, the messenger (who you are) is much more important than the message (what you have to say.) That's why "sales pitches" are so ineffective, by the way.
  5. Seek the truth. Find out if you really have something that can help the customer. Discover the real areas where the two of you can work together. Don't be afraid to admit to your firm's weaknesses, when appropriate. Make it about helping the customer, not about making a buck.
  6. Keep an open mind. Walk into a customer meeting absolutely convinced that the customer needs your offering, and the customer will sense you're close-minded... and become close-minded in return. Be open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere, customers will sense that you've got their best interests at heart and listen to what you have to say.
  7. Have a real dialog. A customer meeting should be a conversation, not a sales call. You should be listening to the customer at least as much as you're talking, and probably much more. And the dialog should be about real business issues, not office patter or sports chit-chat.
The above, by the way, is adapted from a conversation that I recently had with Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge in Business. Smart guy. Just talking to him is like getting a dose of high energy happiness.