Getting things done is important. The best intentions, research, designs, and development work mean nothing if the project doesn’t wrap and launch.
But, getting things done at the cost of building a long-term relationship with your customer? Not a smart investment of anyone’s time.
Engaging a customer means risking “one and done” work — a single assignment or project or website that leads to no future work because, while you got the project done, you didn’t set yourself up for a long-term relationship. Some people are okay with the walk away, but truly successful businesses building long-term futures look to those long-term relationships as both evidence they’re doing great work and insurance that the work will keep coming.
It comes down to who and how you are being. Are you being genuine, authentic, forthright and honest? Are you working to the best of your abilities in the customer’s best interests? Are you keeping lines of communication open? It can be hard to admit when you hit a snag or need more time. It can be hard to make demands of your customers when they control the purse strings. But often that effort at transparency yields a sense of trust that results in “one and some” work with ongoing projects and you or your firm becoming a trusted partner, ally and go-to.
Just thinking about the present moment will rarely set you up for long-term success. Instead, try and be in the past, present, and future.
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Being in the past, present & future
A good strategist is able to interpret past data, relationship history and market forces to produce future interpretations that a customer will buy in the present moment. Did that sentence sound Zen? Here comes the Tai Chi: This requires that a strategist be able to reflect, be present, and project into the future. None of these stances on their own is better; they each have merits in the moment and in relation to the situation at hand. However, without an approach like this, it will be hard to create the future the way you want to see it.
Below is set of practices, that have helped us increase sales, customer satisfaction, and made our team members happier as people. Following these practices helped our business produce over 1 million in annual revenues in less than 2 years. It's not a set of rules, but bite-sized philosophies and general guidelines.
18 Tips for building strong customer relationships
We are what we are. Don’t be apologetic. If you're not yourself, don’t read further until you are.
You are as strong as your team
Love your team, demand great work. Focus on what is best for everyone.
Value is not a thing, it's an outcome of your final work
For every dollar a customer spends, they expect a return. It can be increased sales, increased brand awareness, cost savings, efficiency, market leadership, taking out a competitor or fulfilling on an obligation. It’s notable because it affects the way they interpret the data. So modeling data and producing interpretations must be set to track specific business KPI’s and the values of the customer. In addition, value must always be determined at the beginning of the relationship.
The customer must trust that you will fulfill their goals. The analytics role is one of the most important in a web-based organization. Data can be collected from many sources, but it always requires someone to give an interpretation. By working with customers and moving at their threshold of trust, we can make incremental progress that meets their needs. This almost always leads to satisfaction and larger and more consistent contracts. Always think about people historically. Trust their strengths and weaknesses, only choose them for roles in which their strengths show up, unless they come to you ask for responsibility in order to be more valuable.
Expect that people will have breakdowns. Rather than be upset by breakdown, trust that it will happen, then manage it and most importantly over-communicate. This will give you peace. Never believe that your customer knows what's going on, no one ever minds being showered with attention. Never let a day go by wondering what your customer’s thinking. Just call and ask. It will make you a friend for life. Really, just pick up the phone and call. That being said, get to the point, respect customer’s time — this time is about them, so make them feel like it. Make every second feel like they are getting a return on their money.
Make customers adhere to a schedule. Most actually want to be managed and lead. Management is the laborious part of ensuring that project happens as expected; leading is taking a customer to a place they currently have not yet arrived. Don’t get so caught up in making people happy, focus on meeting objectives. Timing will always change, emotional responses usually don’t mean anything beyond giving them time to react and realize you are on the right path. Customers want to be treated well but are more concerned with overall growth. With trust and a track record of holding commitments, you can be forgiven when you need more time.
Don’t get so caught up in making people happy, focus on meeting objectives.
Get required requirements
Get what is needed, don’t forsake your delivery team. Good product is better sales. Serve your ops team, push them when it matters. Bill via the fastest manner, don’t get caught up in format.fter main proposals, use invoices as much as possible. Track hours accurately, bill with fair margin, and deliver great experiences. The next project win is often built on last.
Save time in the sales process
When a customer asks for something new, ask them immediately if they would like a proposal for it. It will save you both time. If they want free work they will shut up. If they have real work they will elaborate, and you will feel more confident about increasing revenues for your company.
Sometimes, feelings are like gas
Just because we feel something doesn’t mean it is true. Letting go of your feelings in the wrong moment can cause a stink. Just because it can be uncomfortable, doesn’t mean you should let it out. Sometimes our upbringing, prejudices and subconscious can affect our perception, the same way a carne asada burrito can affect the stomach.
Sometimes our upbringing, prejudices and subconscious can affect our perception, the same way a carne asada burrito can affect the stomach.
Know who your customer is
Your customer is your business, not the customer you're working for. Your role is to make the customer satisfied with your services, renew contracts, and place new orders.
Don’t buy your customers excuses; they cost too much
The customer will try to make believe all the reasons why they’re busy, stressed and why they can’t do something. Don’t get caught up in their story, that is just their attempt to lead you astray. You will know it’s happening when you feel out of control with a specific customer but not other customers.
Your customer doesn’t know how to do what you do, that's why they are hiring you.
Be like water
We need to be able to take a stand for a customer when they are not able to see a something clearly. We need to be able to gently move away fears, doubts and objections without destroying people, projects, goals, timelines and budgets in our path.
Cost is any effort spent on customers or new business that ultimately you can’t bill for or won’t produce a future return.
No explanation is needed.
Growth happens over time
Stick with something long enough to see it through. Improve the process, focus on the result, and keep a long view. Quit it when something is no longer producing a return; this includes people and practices.
Understand cost and market forces.
Stay up to date with new practices, technology and market conditions. Read the Wall Street Journal. Take an economics class and take classes on entrepreneurship. You can’t strategize if you don’t understand how a business works and you won’t be able to speak the language of business. Not speaking the language of business will cost you more money over your career than you could possibly know.
Know when you're not making a sale.
Any answer other than “Yes” is “No.” Know when you are chasing a “No” so you can move on. Some people think they are being nice by saying maybe. Our efforts are finite, so don’t let people waste your time. Sometimes people keep telling great things that they are up to, but aren’t bringing you along. If they can be brave enough to tell you they are not using you, say it for them.
Never lie, but don’t admit defeat when it's not required. It’s ok to say “No.”
If you don’t know something, you don't know, and that's ok. Offer to research, look up, reach out to, or find out more information. Just don’t leave people to their own devices. People deal with the unknown all the time, but they want to know you will manage it and they don’t care how you will get it done. Always be aware of what you say, because we are all ultimately our ability to live up to our word.
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Start building your million dollar business
The things I am sharing with you today are insights we have gained by working with a variety of customers. To me, practice is the demonstration of knowledge. I have helped my employers, all of which have been small business, sell over 7 figures a year of services per year, and which also includes my own business Blue Like Neon. Many times, my team and I have found that people get fixated on doing things certain ways or doing it right and, as a result, they miss out on the grander picture. Bruce Lee once said, "It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.” Much is the same in strategy of people if you focus too much on what is happening right now, you won’t be able to grow something. Growth typically takes time, patience, and lots of help. Hopefully we've given you a few practices that will allow you to sell more to the same people for years to come.