The Secret to Great Customer Relationships Is in the Mirror

By Heather Baldwin

Sales is all about relationships – and great relationships are built on a whole lot more than technology. That’s why Thomas Wood-Young, president of Colorado Springs-based Wood-Young Consulting, says salespeople looking to develop and maintain great customer relationships should begin by developing themselves. Here are some of his recommendations.

Improve yourself. Take a long hard look in the mirror. How and where can you improve so that you become a greater asset to your target market? Maybe you need to work on your product knowledge or deepen your understanding of issues in your customers’ industries. Or maybe you’re reading everything you can find about your customers’ industries, but could do a better job sending your customers relevant articles. Maybe you could improve on something as simple as returning phone calls and emails more promptly. Whatever you do, remember self-improvement is the key to building effective relationships, says Wood-Young. You cannot change or control your customers, he adds, but you can change yourself and control how you interact with your customers.

Build partnerships. While you’re thinking about how to improve yourself, you also might want to think about how you view your customers. Is your goal to get in, get out and close the sale as quickly as possible? Or do you try to build a long-term partnership with your prospects? “People want to develop a relationship with someone who is dependable and meets their needs. In this way the relationship becomes more important than the product or service,” says Wood-Young. “The relationship actually becomes your competitive advantage and a real benefit to the customer.”

Add value. You’ll become a more valuable partner to your clients if you become an indispensable resource for them. Identify their organizations’ core problems, not the symptoms, and create solutions that address the underlying problems. Those are the solutions that add value. “Be the person customers want to see and meet with because you add direct value in the form of a productive and effective relationship,” says Wood-Young.

Wood-Young is the author of Intuitive Selling (Wood-Young Publishing, 2000). He can be reached via his Website at