Connect With Your Customers

By Kelly Quigley, REALTOR® Magazine

The Relationship Edge in Business: Connecting With Customers and Colleagues When it Counts By Jerry Acuff with Wally Wood (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2004)

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What do your clients like to do in their spare time? Do you know whether they have pets, or what kind of music they listen to? If can’t answer these questions, you may need to sharpen your relationship-building skills, which author Jerry Acuff says will determine your success in sales. In this book, the former pharmaceutical salesman shares his techniques for developing strong connections with key people in your business life. The process starts with asking the right questions—about family, special interests, and frustrations—to spur a meaningful dialogue. Then build mutual trust and respect, and work hard to maintain what you’ve created. Acuff uses examples from real salespeople, including himself, who have reaped the rewards of relationships they worked hard to forge and maintain. Your ultimate goal is to separate yourself from competitors, and keep customers for life. “What are you going to do that makes prospects, clients and colleagues know you are different from anybody else?,” Acuff asks. “Or are you simply going to be like everybody else?”

Tips from the Book:

  • Do unexpected, unselfish actions. Prospects and customers with whom you do not have a good relationship expect you to do self-serving things. When you do unexpected, unselfish things, you gain respect, credibility, and trust because it demonstrates with actions that you care.
  • Be alert to opportunities. Building a strong business relationship requires you to be alert, both to what people tell you and opportunities to show you’ve listened. Remember important dates like birthdays and wedding anniversaries, and show you care with a card, phone call, or something special. Know what schools they attended, major holidays they celebrate, and favorite foods. Ask about children and spouses, and learn their names. It matters when you can use the information you learned in a conversation.
  • Be courteous to everyone. This should be obvious, but it’s not. Too often, we give all our attention to the prospect or customer, and ignore receptionists, secretaries, and assistants. Treat everybody as important because everyone is important. Not only is this the right thing to do for its own sake, but it could have practical benefits. It’s not unusual for janitors or secretaries to become general managers—and good customers—over the years.