As a business owner, do you consider yourself a salesperson? If you don’t already, then you should. Anyone who is in business is in sales. And sales often boils down to relationships. You know the old adage that “People buy people” right? Building and maintaining relationships is a key skill for business owners.
Here are some guidelines to help form the trust bonds that underlie relationships.
-Put in the time and energy to deeply understand the real needs of your customers. You do this by actively listening and carefully paying attention. Customers want to know that their concerns are considered valid by the people they do business with. Give a customer your full attention.
-If you are a business that has other businesses for customers, show you care by learning about your customer’s business model, industry, stressors, customer base, and anything else that is relevant. You can do this by reading trade journals, attending industry events, spending time with industry members, and paying attention to relevant media. Make it your business to be up on their business.
-Never pretend to be knowledgeable about something you’re not, or pretend to care about something you don’t. Sincerity is a necessary foundation for trust. Faking it will come around to bite you, every time. It goes without saying that genuine relationships require honesty.
-Always provide excellent service. It goes without saying that customer service should be a cornerstone of your customer relations. But how many businesses consistently provide it? Yours should be one that stands out for that very reason. Resolve to create a business that is passionate and dedicated to your customers. Create an environment they won’t want to leave for any reason.
-Offer a sincere and wholehearted apology if the situation warrants one. We all make mistakes. Take full responsibility for yours.
-Continually pay attention to your good customers. Don’t take them for granted as you work on acquiring new ones. Treat them as special and important to you, because they are.
Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program. The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each Sunday. Questions can be submitted to SBDC@chemeketa.edu. Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.