According to Carole Nicolaides, president and executive coach of Progressive Leadership, having your customers view you as their partner rather than just another vendor is a surefire way to not only close a deal but to guarantee repeat business.
Fostering relationships with clients means going beyond just looking at a potential prospect and closing a sale, however. Sales professionals must keep relationships alive even after the sale is closed. Nicolaides offers this advice for turning prospects into life-long partners.
1. Approach your customers with the intent of helping them. Form a collaborative partnership and understand the difference between helping them and simply selling them a service that you think they need. Become a partner with your customers. Make it clear to them that your success is based on their success.
2. Listen and ask questions that will help you understand not only the things that they tell you explicitly, but also the underlying things that they have on their minds. Ask simple questions, such as: What do you mean by that? and, Help me understand what you really want to achieve with this new project.
3. Always be honest. If you cannot help, refer your clients to someone who can. Stay in the loop and show interest, even if you are not providing a direct service.
4. Celebrate wins with your customers. If you see that your customers are doing well with a new endeavor, acknowledge them, praise them and express how proud you are of their success and how grateful you are that you know them. Praise selectively, though – otherwise you may appear to be a smooth talker whose words become meaningless.