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Seven simple steps to retain clients

Customer relations management is a skill that comes naturally to some people, but to others it may seem like a daunting task, says Marc Pillay, CEO of DEVELOP South Africa.

Managing customer relations as a salesperson within a business can be hard work, especially for people who are operational and would rather focus on knowing the products or services rather than interacting with customers. Customer relations management is a skill that comes naturally to some people, but to others it may seem like a daunting task, says Marc Pillay, CEO of DEVELOP South Africa.

In reality, people enjoy being around people who are similar to themselves. They might share common hobbies or cultural interests, sometimes points of view or ways of looking at the world. For anyone client facing, it is worthwhile taking this into consideration and establishing common ground with your customers.

Surprisingly, only a small part of creating a connection is made up of what we say. Over 90% of our opinion of a person is formed by non-verbal markers, such as gestures, facial expressions, the tone of their voice and body language. These factors all influence the subconscious, and anyone who knows how to make use of this non-verbal communication can convince the person facing them that they are both "on the same wavelength". Giving someone this impression creates the trust that you can use positively when interacting with customers in a sales pitch or when trying to resolve a problem.

To make sure you get off on the right footing from the beginning with customers, here are a few tips to help you to be optimal in managing relations for the sake of efficiency and growing your business and its reputation:

1. Establish common ground with customers and make a positive first impression.

Customers want to make connections with people who are interested in them and their business. While professionalism and efficiency is important, it is just as important to take the time to talk with customers; to ask them how business is going, to comment on things happening around town or in their industry. Asking questions shows interest beyond work and the payment you expect. If you share something besides the work itself, there is a greater potential they will become repeat, loyal customers. Finding this commonality, no matter what the subject, will help kickstart a long-lasting customer relationship.

2. Always address the customer using their name.

For businesses that work with a lot of new customers on a daily basis, it is important to note that customers want to be taken seriously. Someone who invests money does not only want to receive a product or service; it is also important to make the customer feel appreciated and on an equal playing field with the sales person. To do this is surprisingly simple: address him/her by their name. By doing this throughout the conversation, not only when you greet them, your communication with them becomes much more personal and "warmer".

3. Show genuine interest in the customer.

People with experience in sales tend to reuse the same successful approach for all customers. In doing so, it is easy to forget that every business partner is an individual and should also be treated as such.

So, take a real interest in your customers. After all, empty phrases alone won't help you achieve your goal. People quickly realise whether they are being taken seriously or being treated as just another figure on the balance sheet. So, approach your customers the way you would someone you know well. The customer will see that you have a genuine interest in them and don't just want to start selling your product right away after only three or four questions.

4. Asking is good, but listening is better.

Customers who talk a little about themselves will not just feel accepted and taken seriously, but they will also automatically reveal to the salesperson the points of view to which they are receptive and how a successful deal could be achieved with them. All that is required is a little patience and a keen ear.

Consequently, the customer should be afforded enough space in the sales conversation to talk about their needs and desires. The rule of thumb is this: the customer should speak for 60 to 70% of the conversation and the salesperson should speak for 30 to 40%.

As a salesperson, hold back your in-depth knowledge for a moment and ask the customer three questions:

* The target question: "What do you expect from the product/service?"
* The understanding question: "What does the product/service mean to you?"
* The value question: "What is important to you about the product/service?"

5. Differences of opinion can be used to your advantage to ensure that there is nothing standing in the way of making a sale.

People are individuals and everybody has a unique personality – and thus also sometimes different points of view. Those in sales learn sooner or later that their position is not necessarily the same as that of their customer. However, differences of opinion can be used to your advantage to ensure that there is nothing standing in the way of making a sale and building what is a potentially long and rewarding relationship.

You should therefore try to understand your customers' train of thought. Which aspects are important to them? Show a genuine interest and let them explain their point of view – and thus earn sympathy points. Show that you can understand and respect their feelings. Then your customers will feel that they are being taken seriously. And they will be happy to arrange a follow-up meeting with you.

6. Focus on customer value.

It goes without saying that you know a great deal about your work. You have a high level of expertise and can have answers ready to all conceivable questions to complete a sale. Yet technical information and demonstrations of product strengths can sometimes seem daunting. Of course, everybody is open to recommendations, but it can be a lot more useful to show the customer specific benefits - ideally using their own words.

7. Like the customer, win the customer.

People are not always straightforward. Each person has a mind of their own; they make demands and can often be difficult to read. This means that dealing with them is not always easy. And what is true in general also applies to sales conversations in particular.

Having a positive attitude towards a customer, even if they are still somewhat challenging, is one of the most important things that you need to be able to do as a salesperson. It will ease the dialogue immensely if you give your customer the feeling that you like them – and it will speed up the path to a positive conclusion. After all, the customer plays a key part in you earning your income.

And what should you do if you and your customer are not on the same wavelength initially? Adapt to your customer. Look for common ground. And make use of non-verbal communication. Aspects such as these can be helpful if you want to accept your customer as they are and offer them professional advice.

Importantly, don't forget: a smile is always the shortest bridge between two people. Try it out – and start actively shaping the relationship that connects you with your customer. Do you already take all of those factors into consideration? If not, try to pay attention to them, and you will quickly see that you will have greater success with them.

DEVELOP South Africa

DEVELOP South Africa, a wholly-owned Bidvest company, represents a leading international office communication solutions brand. DEVELOP's ethos is to assess, design and guide clients throughout the implementation process and beyond. It offers continued onsite technical and software management, as well as the supply of spare parts and consumables. Its primary objective is to increase productivity in the customers' business environment. With a principle of "dynamic balance", DEVELOP South Africa offers clients cost-effective innovation in the product area, while being dedicated to a mutually beneficial relationship with its business partners.

 

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