Value is more than price
Your ability to work with your customers, not just sell to them, is what makes a relationship grow from pure exchange to value. Value can be added before the sale by being willing to explore opportunities with the customer, rather than trying to push a specific product or service that you believe offers the best margin. Value can also be added after the sale by being willing to re-engage with customers to explore future opportunities – as well as delivering quality, post-sale support, of course.
Share ideas – and listen too
The best human relationships have great communication at their hearts, whether they’re personal, communal or commercial, allowing us to explore the things we share in common: interests, values and needs. The better our rapport, the better we are positioned to be able to add value to the relationship by offering something new: information, inspiration and suggestion.
A wine producer, for example, can personalise a relationship with a bottle shop owner by understanding what the shop’s customers really like or might be motivated to try. In turn, the winemaker’s story can be shared with customers, along with an exclusive offer. Finally, the bottle shop might collect after-sales customer feedback (drinking notes in this case) to help shape future offers.
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Respond to change
Actively look to improve your understanding of each customer’s needs, motivations and interests by regularly asking for feedback. Whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone or online, the feedback you record not only helps you respond to immediate concerns or opportunities, it also helps you stay relevant and improves future sales prospects.
Ideally you’ll record feedback as part of the regular maintenance of your customer records. At the basic level, you need to know their contact details are up-to-date; at a more dynamic level, you want to find out how you can continually add value. When you learn more about where your customers are coming from and going to, then you’ll have a better understanding of how your business might play a role in that evolution. It is important to keep the relationship relevant.
3 ways to nurture customer relationships
- Collect data. The data you collect in each interaction with a customer should be relevant to the task or conversation at hand. If its usefulness is not apparent, you should explain what its future use will be. Asking for a whole lot of detail is time-prohibitive and can result in rejection.
- Share valuable information. Look for interesting insights within your industry or area of expertise that you can share with your customers or, better still, share your own thoughts and expert recommendations on how your customers could respond to mutually-relevant trends, events or challenges.
- Check-in with customers. At Telstra, checking-in with individual business owners is important in our customer relationship management approach. We want to learn more about what needs resolving, what we’re doing right and how else we can add value to the relationship so that it will grow.
Originally published August 13th 2015. Updated July 30th 2019.