Cultivating Healthy Business Relationships

Andrea owns and operates an online retail store.  A significant part of her value proposition, that which brings value to her customers and distinguishes her from other online retailers, is a commitment to relational retailing.

The challenge many critics of e-commerce have is the impersonal aspect; cold and mechanical but Andrea through careful planning has positioned her company to be available for the personal touch for those customers who are looking for that buying experience.

She makes sure customers can get in touch with her or her staff via a well positioned toll free number, with clear hours of operation and contact form on her website.  In addition, all her communication is professional yet personable being sure that with each contact with costumers they know their inquiry is welcome.  Taking the time to thank her customers, inquire about simple universal things like the weather and then taking the time to have a conversation about what the customer is looking for and providing informed solutions, even if, in the rare instance the customer may be better served by another retailer!  Andrea and her staff have cultivated significant relationship with many clients where they learn and remember what the customer likes, about their family, hobbies and so forth.  Andrea has trained her staff  to be deliberate to inquire specifically about something personal the customer had shared previously with them.
The upshot of Andrea’s relational retailing approach?  Significant business from repeat customers which is more efficient than developing new business.   Customer loyalty increases and are less likely to make buying decisions based on price while attributing value to the relationship.  It also connects Andrea’s business and Andrea’s staff to their customers in a more meaningful way which inspires better service and increases general job satisfaction.

7 Ideas to Cultivate Healthy Business Relationships:

  • Be genuinely interested in your customers as human beings instead of just a potential sale.  Be genuine because folks can tell when you’re faking it!  Remember significance comes when we value people as people and develop healthy relationships.  This will establish a healthy foundation upon which to do business.
  • Follow up with your customers.  Touch base in a reasonable amount of time.  Use this as an opportunity to solicit your customers thoughts - positive or negative and respond to them as appropriate.
  • Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you will do it.   Your customers will appreciate it because it is often rare!   Keep your word even in those times it may hurt.  Your customers will appreciate your integrity and this creates healthier business relationships.
  • Discern the pace! It is an art to determine when to ask for the sale and when to hold off.   It is common to ask too early, not fully discerning the customers needs and addressing their concerns and appearing pushy.    The other ditch,  waiting too long to ask for the sale for fear of being pushy.

To avoid either ditch, be sure to listen to your customers carefully.    Listen carefully for points of friction, their objections and address them deliberately.  Look for signs of agreement and then confidently ask for the sale.

  • Listen and understand - This is crucial.  Many of us come armed with a canned pitched without listening to what our prospect may be telling us.  Know your customer by listening - What is their business? What are their goals?  How do they do what they do?  A great deal of this can be researched before you make the call.  This information will allow you to shape your pitch in a way that is relevant for the potential customer.

When you get in the door listen to what and how they say what they do; hearing what they are really saying.  Ask good questions for clarity and then address their issues directly.

  • Relationship is a two way street.  Some business may not be a fit for you.   Yes, you may have a good or service which may satisfy a need but it could have some unacceptable risk, it may require an amount of service and support which may make the business unprofitable.   It maybe that their business practices and ethics may be objectionable.  If it isn’t profitable, doesn’t feel right for you, it might be worth passing on the business.
  • Referrals are a natural fruit of healthy relational business and don’t be afraid to ask your clients for referrals and remember to thank them when they do.  Let's face it, if something is good, we have had a positive experience we are delighted to share it with our friends!

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