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Dine with your customers!

There used to be light rain almost every day in the afternoons in Singapore. The already clean roads get washed up yet again. Smell of the earth would be evident all around. It makes you feel energetic and more productive.

One such afternoon, I was learning how to hold the chop sticks. From one of my customers. I was a Vegetarian then [Vegan now] but that was a Chinese restaurant that considers small fish as Vegetarian. I had to explain several times to the bearer both symbolically [in sign language] and verbally saying “no small fish”.

My guest taught me how to hold the chop sticks and I really learnt it. You won’t believe, I was picking up rice with the chop sticks. It surely helps to eat less quantity in one mouthful and chew it well. May be, a lesson in Sales as well: Take up only what you can chew. And chew it well.

What happens when you dine together? You get to know the person personally. You get to know their interests, likes, dislikes, passion, hobbies etc. You build a strong trust based relationship. You don’t go with an agenda. You go with the flow. Eventually, you build a great relationship.

That was not the first time or the last time I dined with Customers. Even in India, I have dined with Customers. That’s a secret recipe for a great relationship. Customers want to deal with someone who is as much human as themselves.

In the last few years, I have built a style that I follow, when I dine with customers & prospects. I narrate stories from my life and what I learnt from it. That sets up the conversation. I don’t intend to close or anything. But I have probably created a strong emotional buy-in in the minds of my customers.

I am sure you have stories like these as well from your Sales experience.

I think, majority of us in Sales, that includes me, do not stay in touch with customers with whom we had built a great relationship.

Take away: List down some of your old customers and get back in touch this week. You may be in for a surprise.

Happy Selling!!

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20 steps to becoming a “Trusted Partner” of your customer

Why should you become a Trusted Partner of your customer? Because, that is the only way you can do business with him/her. Trust can win you business and keep you in business. Old school techniques in Sales do not pay off anymore. So, things like smooth talking, hard persuasion, piling on the prospect, under-cutting, anti-marketing, pushing your product without knowing whether the prospect has any need for it or not and many others do not work anymore. So, what is essential today is to earn trust and respect.

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So, what will help you become a Trusted Partner of your customer?

  1. Forget targets. Forget Metrics, Deep analysis, Demographics, Your Business Plans, Your KRAs etc. These don’t mean anything without customers to serve.
  2. Focus on your Customers – past customers, current customers, past prospects [those that didn’t buy from you], current prospects and the target industry that you serve or want to serve.
  3. Understand them well – their Industry, their challenges, their road maps, their business plans etc.
  4. Use a Consultative Sales approach.
  5. Do not be short sighted. Do not focus just on the deal on hand. Instead focus on helping the customer.
  6. Have an outlook that sets you apart from your competition. Maybe [maybe] your competitor is just focusing on the deal at hand, does not show care and concern for the customer, looks at it as just another transaction, is inhuman etc. Fix these things. You have won the Trust already.
  7. Use every opportunity to serve them well. You will not get a second chance to make a first impression.
  8. Share knowledge. Willingly.
  9. Think that there is a solution to all the problems your customer faces. There is. Go find that solution.
  10. Be a part of their team. Give your sweat and blood.
  11. Stake everything you have to solve the customer’s problems.
  12. Show extreme seriousness when you deal with their problems.
  13. Have a systematic approach. Let the customer know before hand how you are approaching the problem.
  14. Break the steps to solve the problem into series of smaller achievable steps. Show progress at every single step.
  15. Involve your top resources on the job.
  16. Invite your customers to your office, introduce them to your gems, show how you work, show what level of professionalism, commitment, ethics & love, you and your colleagues have towards work.
  17. Let your customer see some of your works that are truly remarkable.
  18. Show you are committed to solving their problems.
  19. Don’t ever sell.
  20. Customers are looking for these everywhere – a sales person who delivers on his promises, a product/service that is a fit for them, a product/service that they like and one that is going to increase their profits, a partner who can be trusted and loved. Will you deliver all these and more?

Then, You are that Trusted Partner of your Customers.

Happy Selling !! Err, Happy Partnering !!!