The holiday season is a truly special time of year. I mean, what other time of year will people willingly sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours on end or brave crowded airports only to endure delayed flights, overpriced snacks, and lost baggage? So, why do we do it?
I believe it boils down to one thing. Our relationships. We all care about our parents, siblings, grandparents, in-laws (well, maybe not those) and they mean a great deal to us. And although those relationships may not be perfect, they are important to us, and we understand the value of putting forth effort in nurturing them.
I also believe that this is one of the more important areas of focus in business. Our relationships help us not only win new business but also help maintain and even grow those accounts over time.
In my experience, most salespeople or account managers take those relationships for granted. Initially, we spend a lot of time nurturing our relationships but once we land an account how many of us simply take the foot off the gas in terms of continuing the good work of bettering our relationships?
So, as you make your trek through the holiday season, consider the following tips for improving your customer relationships. NOTE: You are on your own with your family. Yikes!
1. Map them out! At Butler Street, we recommend you take a deep dive into your accounts and identify all the relationships you either have or want to have within your account. Once you have done that, you need to consider the following:
What is their personality type and how can I adjust my approach to better connect with them?
How do they adapt to change? Are they a Pioneer, a Straggler or somewhere in between?
What about their buying role? Can they authorize new spend or are they simply a consumer?
Have you considered their political role? Are they in the inner circle or someone with very little influence?
Finally, once we have considered all the above, we need to think about where our relationship resides on the Relationship Pyramid. Hmmm…wouldn’t it be nice if you could assess your relationships? Well, you can! Keep reading.
2. Assess your relationships. At Butler Street, we encourage folks to assess their customer relationships to determine if they are competitive, cooperative or collaborative. Answers to simple questions such as those listed below can be used to identify strong relationships as well as those that need a little more TLC.
My contact acts as an advocate for us to his/her upper management. (Y/N, Sometimes)
My contact regularly questions our price. (Y/N, Sometimes)
My contact has provided referrals that we have leveraged. (Y/N, Sometimes)
3. Be Human. Finally, once you have put your relationships through all these labs tests, it is time to remember to just be a human again. Equipped with your newfound knowledge, focus on the following:
Consider your customer’s operating reality and try to ask questions designed to help you gain a better understanding of their specific needs and wants.
Remember to actively listen to them. Want to get better at Active Listening? Practice beginning your replies in the following manner: "It's important you said that because…" Starting your replies with that statement ensures that you not only focus on what the other person is saying but it encourages you to offer additional thoughts or insight to the conversation. See related How To Become A Terrific Listener
Finally, remember the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Whether you are looking to be more empathetic, find ways to better diffuse conflicts, or simply improve your communication skills, EQ will help you get there.
For most of us, things tend to slow down between now and the end of the year. Spend some time over the next few weeks thinking through these relationship strategies and building out some new year's resolutions with your customer relationships in mind. Need help? We are happy to assist. (NOTE: We probably cannot help you deal with your over-talkative uncle or great aunt who hides dinner rolls in her purse.)