1. Take it slow. To establish long-term customer relationships, you have to take things one step at a time. When you first meet someone, make a note of where and how you met the person and any other details about your conversation. At each future point of contact, you can learn, and document, more about the company and the individual. The next stage in the process may be to invite those contacts to subscribe to your newsletter or blog. When they respond, ask for another piece of information that helps you understand their needs and how you or your firm may be better able to fulfill them. Successful relationships take time to build knowledge and trust – customer relationships are no different.
2. Use data wisely. According to SiriusDecisions, companies could realize nearly 70 percent more revenue by simply having better data. Start by determining what you already know and identify where additional data is needed. Eliminate old or extraneous data, it will only bog you down. Ensure that you dedupe your database so you’re not communicating with three different versions of the same person – it’s inefficient and it makes you look incompetent to the prospect or customer. Consider partnering with a data vendor that confirms and appends key data. This information will enable you to send more targeted communications and also find contacts that have similar profiles to the contacts who have already become customers.
3. Contact prospects and customers on their terms. People prefer different types of information and methods of communication based on where they are in the buying cycle and depending on the type of product or service being purchased. Learning those preferences early in the relationship can make a big difference in influencing their decision of continuing the conversation with you and help you build trust. At each interaction, prospects are willing to provide additional information (i.e., budget range, decision timeline, etc.) in exchange for seeing how your product or service can solve their business problem. Ask for their preferred method of contact and respect that request as you continue the conversation. You will engender trust and establish your company as one willing to provide its products or services on the client’s terms.
4. Know when to close the deal. Prospects have many ways to find information on your product or service without speaking to you or one of your representatives. Even though a prospect spent 20 minutes on your website, you don’t know if they spent 30 minutes on your competitor’s. By the time you have filled in the most important records in your CRM, and conducted a valuable dialogue, you will have a better idea of where your prospects are in their decision-making process. Use the data you collected during your conversation, online and offline, to know when to ask for the order.
In order to do this, you will need a comprehensive CRM system and a commitment by everyone in your organization to track every interaction with every prospect and customer. Only in this way can you ensure that you are providing a consistent experience, answering objections in a consistent manner and optimizing your opportunity to convert a prospect to a customer.
What additional steps do you think are necessary to initiate and nurture new relationships?