Client Relations: a “new” level of Sales Performance
This article is a slight departure from our usual content: we won’t be focusing on sales consultants or talking about specific techniques for sales, negotiations or management. Instead, we’ll be looking at our relationship with clients, which is key to sales performance. And the big difference between client relations and the aforementioned techniques is that everyone has a part to play. Yes, everyone!
I say “everyone”, because although client relations naturally concern external customers, they also involve internal customers, such as different departments or colleagues to whom you provide a service. As a result, client relations impact all company employees.
Whether dealing with an external or internal customer, we all find ourselves at some point needing to convince someone to do something or at least trying influence them, even if we are not salespeople. This is easier to achieve with the help of a healthy client relationship.
But what are client relations? The keyword here is without doubt “relations”. The goal is to establish and maintain a smooth relationship with clients and other stakeholders.
The quality of this relationship can affect:
- The other person’s willingness to say “yes”
- Your level of stress
- The extent to which you enjoy your work
- And, by extension, your ability to do the job well!
Adopt a “customer-centric” approach
First and foremost, you need to change your mindset and your attitude. You have to be more “customer centric”, focusing on the client, their expectations, challenges, messages and reactions—all with the sole goal of better understanding them and focusing on their needs without ever judging them.
- To do this, you need to start by being self-effacing. Avoid talking about your own expectations, ideas or solutions, for example.
This kind of approach isn’t always easy. But it is incredibly effective. If you can listen and show an interest in your client, you will gain two key powers of persuasion: likeability and reciprocity. And if you can instill that affinity, the people you talk to will no doubt feel an urge to react in kind and will happily listen when it is time for you to make your pitch.
- To achieve this goal, you have to ask the right questions to understand what is important to clients, gain insight into their context and offer the best possible solution.
As in sales, these questions should be specific to the person you are speaking to and should address their individual request, project or complaint. Questions should also be open ended, encouraging people to speak freely, which lets you avoid having to guess what is on their mind.
- And, if you are aiming to be persuasive, you will have to find and express the benefits the client will derive from what you are asking or offering. This is worth planning in advance by putting yourself in the client’s shoes.
- That does NOT mean you should accept anything from a client or say “yes” to every request. In a balanced client relationship, you need to know how to politely say “no”
Stop distinguishing between “external” and “internal” customers
We often tend to act differently when dealing with people internally: we feel that because we work for the same company, we can tell each other everything, sometimes in a more direct fashion. We might also assume there is no risk of losing an internal client, which is true, in most cases.
I recommend you do away with this distinction: remember that improving client relations is a comprehensive, collaborative approach that will boost the way you interact with those around you and thereby enhance your overall work performance. And when you consider that nearly 90% of clients drop a service provider when they feel they have been “treated badly”, isn’t that reason enough to raise your game when it comes to client relations?
A customer-centric approach is vital in today’s environment. It is something our clients expect and, as a result, it is something we ourselves expect (since we are all somebody’s customer😊). It’s a win-win!
Craft the way you communicate
When it comes communication, delivery is more important than depth. The way you say or write things is key to creating the right impression, and it is this impression that shapes the quality of the client relationship.
You should of course choose your words carefully. However, you should also pay particular attention to your tone. Never lose sight of your goal: to establish good client relations or improve that relationship, depending on the situation.
At the end of the day, being customer-centric is simple. As Confucius said:
Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated.😊Confucius
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