Relationship selling (as opposed to transactional selling) seeks to build trust with chosen customers in order to lock in loyalty. Our very best endeavours don’t always work perfectly. Products need servicing, things break and advice given today can be outdated in weeks or months as markets continually adjust. But customers are astute – they seek consistency for which they will reward you with annuity income.
So how does relationship selling work? It’s when your offering consistently matches the promise thereby cementing trust. It also involves the promise being achievable almost all the time. And that takes planning and consistent effort. It means that on the few occasions that things don’t go as planned that there are processes in place to deal with this efficiently providing the same level of service enjoyed at point of sale.
Established organisations automate much of the after-sales process thus providing a place to go when products need servicing or fixing. So far so good. But what happens when the after sales service does not match the promise? The trust built up in the initial phase of acquiring the client can be eroded fast.
Relationship selling can only be effective when all the players along the service line and supporting systems play their role in upholding the promise thus retaining customer trust thereby maintaining brand authenticity.
Any organisation seeking to make relationship selling the sole responsibility of the customer facing employee or key account manager is making a grave mistake. The result could be that the painstaking work done at the front end is undone at the back end.
Typically the front end involves doing your homework on the customer’s needs and difficulties and their barriers to success. Effective communication with the client involves maintaining momentum and interest until something concrete happens and beyond. In the process, particularly as you demonstrate understanding an adaptability, trust is gradually built. Credibility takes a longer as reputation translates into action and a dependable track record of interactions.
Once your efforts provide your customer results in the form of cost / time savings, increasing profitability or workplace efficiency the focus moves to maintaining the relationship in the face of changing needs (adaptability) and support.
Customer loyalty is earned. If you strive for Relationship Integrity where the benefits to both parties form the basis of an ongoing relationship, your will most valued customers will stick around. As the relationship strengthens and grows over time, you earn the right to expand your offerings and request referrals.
An often overlooked tool in your armoury is requesting regular customer feedback on what you’re doing using strategically well appointed questions. That way you not only hear what needs improving, but it might lead to new ideas or suggestions on what can be done differently. There are also massive benefits to be had from educating your client on your procedures in order to get the most from your services and products in better time.
In essence, Relationship Integrity is not a sprint – it’s an ultra marathon with a difference. That difference is that the goal is not to complete the race, but to keep it going continually.