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  Category: Articles » Business » Sales » Article

9 Steps to Building a Profitable Customer Relationship

By Colleen Francis

Success in sales depends directly on your ability to make yourself likeable, and create a positive experience for your customers. The following 9 Tips are some of the best - and easiest - ways I know to help you create a more positive customer experience:

1. Love what you sell, the company you work for and the customers you serve.
If you are truly passionate about these three things, your willingness to help your customers solve their problems will shine through. Customers will believe your sincerity and be captivated by your excitement. In short - you will be fun to work with. Our studies show that customers prefer to buy from sales people who overtly show that they believe in the products they sell, and the companies they work for. Choose to be honest, open and empathetic to your customers' needs, and you will experience consistent sales growth, build an excellent reputation and become one of the top performers in your field.

2. Be empathetic and compassionate.
Truly care about your customers, and remember that no matter how good an actor you are, faking it simply won't work. Ask questions, take notes and lean in to show that you're engaged in their answers. When you take an interest in people, they remember you - and when people remember you, it's good for business.

3. Add value and give first.
Share your network of contacts with your customers, and don't expect them to give you their business without you giving them something first. I don't mean give away free product in the hopes they will buy more. Instead, give away things that increase your value - like a referral to a partner of yours, a solution to a business problem that you read about or heard from someone else, or even help finding a new dentist!

4. Make eye contact.
This is especially important when you walk into a room full of people. Eye contact is also essential after we get to know people, because it cements our existing relationships and lets them know that we're still interested in their well being. Very few sales people ever look their prospects directly in the eye. By simply smiling and making eye contact, you'll be surprised how much you will set yourself apart.

5. Express your true intent.
Tell customers upfront: "I don't know if there's a fit between what you need and what I have right now, but I'm hoping we can explore that in more detail during this meeting." Or: "I only have your best interests at heart, and I promise to be honest with you throughout our conversation. In the end, I hope that we can mutually decide if there is a reason to move forward. If not, that's fine too, and I hope you'll feel comfortable telling me so." This advice runs counter to 90% of the approaches I see being used in the field today. But then again, maybe that's why only 10% of sales people are top performers. Try it yourself a few times, and you'll be amazed at the response you get.

6. Don't go for the big decision all at once.
In our personal lives, we don't propose to someone on a first date (at least, not usually!). The same is true in our business relationships. So get approval from the customer to move ahead in increasing increments. The first approval might be just to agree to speak openly with each other, as outlined in Tip #5 above. The second could be an agreement on a follow-up call time or meeting date. The third might be gaining agreement on the decision making criteria or a commitment to have the "big boss" present at the demo, followed by an agreement to a "go/no go" decision date. All too often, I see sales people jumping way ahead of their prospect's buying curve. This puts the buyer and seller out of synch. When the sales person is trying to close while the prospect is still evaluating options or determining risk, trust is broken, the prospect feels pushed and the sale comes dangerously close to disappearing.

7. Use friendly, warm words.
When you use simple language instead of formal "business speak," people respond better and trust you more. So limit your words to three syllables max. And don't try to impress prospects with your extensive vocabulary, or you may end up just sounding fake.

8. Use people's names.
When it comes to using names, there are just two rules to follow: first, be aware of whether they're more comfortable with first name only or title + last name; second, never overuse their name - this only sounds corny and false. Dale Carnegie once said, "nothing is so beautiful to a person as the sound of their own name." Just use your discretion.

9. Ask the right questions.
Successfully building agreement with your prospects depends on your ability to ask the right questions. What are the right questions? Those that move the prospect from an intellectual position of knowing they have a problem that needs to be solved, to an emotional state of trusting you to solve that problem in a way that will satisfy them.

In short, the right questions are those that reveal true buying motivations. Mastering the right questions will ensure that you and your client build a strong relationship, wherein you can both succeed - and profit!

To help you close more deals and build lasting profitable customer relationships, try asking some of the following questions during your needs analysis:

1. Identify the intellectual problem with a lead-in question.

What makes you think...?
How do you select...?
What's most important to you about...?
Where do you see...?
How have you employed...?
What has been your experience with...?

2. Develop an intellectual awareness about this problem.

Can you tell me more about it?
Could you be more specific?
How long have you had this concern?
What have you done to address it?
How did that work out?

3. Identify the specific business impact of this problem.

How has this problem impacted your organization?
If you had to guess, what do you think this problem is costing your department / company / business / etc?
What will happen if this problem continues?
4. Get emotional! Identify the specific personal impact of this problem.

What impact does this problem have on your job / your staff?
How important is this to you personally?
What will happen if you don't find a solution to this problem?
Why is it so important?

Remember: your success is directly determined by the way you are perceived, and the amount of effort you put into your career. Changing any of those variables will have a huge impact on whether you succeed or fail.

After all, in good times or in bad, the type of sales person you choose to be is 100% up to you.
About the Author
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, President/Founder of Engage Selling Solutions, since 2001.

Engage Selling - Everything you need to sell more, in less time and make more money!

For more great sales tips, articles, resources - please visit: or our Selling University at:

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