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The ROI is Always in the Relationship!


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It’s NOT About You!

When it comes to building great business relationships, professionals must realize that it’s not about them.  People are only interested in themselves. They like to talk about themselves and its human nature that clients want to know “What’s in it for me?”

The fastest way to build rapport with a client or prospect is to ask them questions about themselves.  This could initially be personal questions to find some common ground while being respectful of people’s privacy and then leading to business related questions.

 

What do your client’s treasure most? • Their children • Their job • Their community work • Their new car • Their upcoming vacation

Find out what your client or prospect is most excited about and ask genuine questions.  Questions will show your client that it’s not all about the money and that you’re a great listener and care about them as a person.

Have you ever had lunch with someone, you asked all the questions and they happily told you their life story. At the end of the meal they told you were a great conversationalist and really interesting?  Well they found you interesting because you first became interested in them.  You gave them an opportunity to be in the spotlight to share their excitement, maybe unload their challenges and you listened with respect and sincerity.

In the end, it’s not about you, it’s not about me, and it’s about our clients, donors and members.   Listening and coming from a place of genuine interest is one of the fundamental roots to building great business relationships!


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Prosperous Vendor Relationships

We all know that the relationships with have with our clients, donors and members are important to the success of our business.  What we may not have considered is the relationship we have with our vendors and how that affects our success.

In the promotional products industry our vendors can be treated very poorly by distributors.  I’ve seen this treatment first hand when I worked for another organization.  When I started my own business I made a commitment that I would never treat my vendors poorly.  In fact, I would treat vendors like clients! Imagine the difference in the approach to a relationship with this attitude.  It means asking my suppliers to lunch and actually treating them rather than expecting them to foot the bill.  Treating my vendors like clients means that the lunch is about getting to know them on a personal level. This is also a great opportunity to network to perhaps connect them to someone else who may impact their business or personal life.  Did they mention they were going on a trip? Perhaps there’s a super travel agent I can refer them to.  The relationship is two-sided and genuine.

A great relationship with a supplier means being honest about how urgent your deadlines are.  If something is a rush, I state rush and they know I’m truthful about it.  Rather than placing every order as an urgent request my vendors know that I’m flexible. They can call on us if they need some cooperation to shuffle my order to accommodate someone else that needs a product produced urgently.  Having open communication and a respectful relationships means they know I’m approachable and flexible and it means that if I’m ever in a rushed position they will pull through for me.

When something does go wrong, great vendor partnerships approach dealing with the situation with respect and patience.  It means collecting the facts, picking up the phone and working on a solution that’s a win-win.  It doesn’t mean trying to screw your supplier over for making you look bad, or a heated email that could sever the relationships completely. It means working together to “wow” your client in the end building loyalty to your supplier as well as keeping a client for life.

In the end, having a mutually beneficial relationship with your vendor or supplier will increase your productivity.  The more you can rely on a few sources rather than hundreds of sources to do a great job, the more quickly you get things done and can move on to other tasks at hand. When vendor relationships are based on trust, honesty and respect it’s amazing how smoothly a transaction can run.

Write a personal note to one of your vendors today! It’s a new year, let them know you’re excited about growing your business with them and thank them for their support in the past. I guarantee a positive return!


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Follow up Matters

 

Keeping your word and following up when you say you will, builds your credibility as a professional.

Great relationship marketers make notes and have electronic reminders to ensure they give the people they serve the best possible care possible.  This means making notes at a tradeshow and then sending yourself a reminder to follow up. It means blocking time off the day you return from an event and make the day dedicated to phone calls, personal notes or proposals.

By pre-planning brochures or media kits to send a client you have promised builds a sense of comfort with your prospect.  I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve attended and the exhibitor promised a follow up and never followed through.  Immediately my view of this individual changes and it affects our future dealings.

If on the other hand I meet with someone at a networking function, tradeshow or business meeting and they promise to follow up with specific information and actually do, this puts a deposit in the relationship bank.  I view this person as a professional and accountable business partner. Great relationship marketers call when they say they will, arrive on time for meetings and follow up promptly.

Great follow up isn’t limited to the first contact after meeting someone.  Relationships are built on consistency which breeds familiarity and comfort thus developing a trustworthy bond.

It’s important to follow up with prospects, and more importantly – existing clients.  Many people forget about existing clients once the sale is made.

Here are 4 great ways you can stay in touch with clients so that they know you care about their wellbeing and success well after the transaction.

1. Personal call – follow up one month or six months down the road to ensure that your client is experiencing the benefits you promised. Without this call you may never hear about any challenges the client is having which may result in a lost relationship in the future.

2. Personal note – send a past patronage card to thank them for their previous business. Imagine your car salesman sent you a note one year in to your purchase thanking you for your business! How would you feel about this person? Would you be more likely to tell others about his or her professionalism?  This is a great way to position yourself during a time when your services are not top-of-mind with your clients.  You remain on their radar so when a friend or family member mentions the need for a new vehicle they immediately think of you.

3. Unsolicited proposal – see a new product or opportunity that your client might benefit from? Perhaps there’s a special on an existing product or service that they’ve used in the past, send them the information so they know you’re thinking of them. Your clients will appreciate that you went out of your way to inform them.

4. Article of Interest – send an electronic or physical copy of an article you find that may benefit or interest your client, member or donor.  Did they mention that they are gluten free? Perhaps send them a link to a recipe for gluten-free cupcakes.  I had lunch with a financial advisor once who did this and I was floored.  Clearly she paid attention to my menu selection and then followed up by email with a website link!  I was impressed and did it cost her anything to do? No.  Did it make a lasting impression? Absolutely!

 

Follow up can be done in many different ways.  The key is to do so when you promise that you will and then surprise clients, members and donors with unexpected acts of thoughtfulness to enhance the relationship.


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Tact and Grace

 

Great relationships are based on making others feel good which at times requires tact and grace.  A mutually beneficial relationship lets both parties feel trust, appreciation and loyalty.  Relationships aren’t built overnight and take time to foster and grow.

I feel compelled to share a personal story this week.  Over the past four days I’ve been at our national conference.  I’ve attended wonderful workshops, seen new products at our tradeshow and have reconnected with some incredible vendors.

One tradeshow vendor, let’s call him “Bob”, pulled me aside and this is how the conversation went:

“Nikki, I didn’t want to leave you a voicemail or email about this because sometimes it just doesn’t come out right” (agreed).  He continues to say, “I’ve pitched my product line to your team twice now and you haven’t sent me any business” (Self-interests perhaps?).  “Nikki, the reality is that, as I’m sure you can relate as you’re dealing with your customers” (rather assuming) “that if you spent time presenting to a customer and they didn’t buy from you, you would have to invest your time elsewhere.  It just makes good business sense”.

Wow! Well once I picked myself up off the floor, I smiled at Bob and thanked him for his time. I assured him that the lack of business on our part wasn’t personal and it was just a case of his line not being time of mind on a day-to-day basis.  As I walked away from his booth I felt slighted then sorry for Bob.  See what Bob didn’t realize was that our team appreciated his visits. We even included his line along with the other apparel lines we normally share with our clients in a number of proposals.  We even did an e-mail blitz shortly after his presentations but as time passed we simply forgot about his company.

As I walked the showroom floor, I thought about how that was a perfect example of how not to build a relationship!  We can learn a lot about relationship marketing from Bob.  I’m reminded that if a client buys elsewhere the ownership is on me, the sales person.  For instance, if I were to walk in to an office of a current client and see that their lobby was filled with two hundred gift baskets and my company didn’t provide them, well I have two choices.  I can be tactless, like Bob and get defensive or I can communicate grace and humility.  I can recognize that clearly I didn’t communicate to this client that our company offered Christmas baskets. Perhaps they were unaware that this was part of our line in addition to branded office supplies and promotional merchandise. I could remind them just how much I appreciate their patronage and mention that I’d be happy to provide some ideas the next time they’re sourcing out gift baskets. The worst case scenario of course would be to make my client feel guilty for not purchasing from me just like Bob did.


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Complacency- The ROI Killer

 

You may have heard the statistics before but they’re worth mentioning again.  When a client stops working with an organization there are a few factors involved, perhaps a geographic move, a death or they no longer have a need for the service.  However a staggering 68% of customers will leave an organization to go work with, or purchase from, another company because of perceived indifference on the vendor’s part! Even if the original company provided an excellent service at the time, great product and pricing the client will leave if they feel the supplier is unappreciative of their patronage. That’s a compelling reason to stay in constant contact with your clients!

Here are 6 easy ways to stay connected with your clients…

1. Handwritten note – send clients a personal note thanking them for their past business.  Remind them that you’re there as a resource to provide new ideas or answer any questions they have about trends in your market.

2. Personal call – phone your clients, check in and make sure that they know you’re available to them.  Let them know you want to make sure you’re being proactive about their account.  This is not a sales call, this is a call conduct a temperature check on the service you’re providing and thank them for their business.

3. Stop by – if you’re in the area, stop by your client’s office.  Drop off a promotional piece discreetly branded with your company name and information.  Thank them once again for their loyalty to your organization and remind them that you’re there to help in any way you can. Your useful gift will serve as a goodwill piece as well as generate residual marketing exposure in your client’s workspace or home.

4. Network – connect existing clients to other clients that may have the potential for a strategic partnership.  Introduce your contacts to one another.  Remember, looking for ways to help your clients reach their goals is a surefire way to solidify your relationship and communicate that you care about them as a person in addition to the business they bring to your organization.

5. Unsolicited proposals – if you come across a special offer or important market update that will benefit your client, be sure to be proactive with proposals.  If you’re selling a product, have they purchased something in the past that is currently on special? Reach out and let them know you came across an offer that they may want to take advantage of.  If you’re in the service business, perhaps a mortgage broker and interests rates have lowered and your client can take advantage of some significant savings, be proactive and send an unsolicited offer.

6. Lunches –schedule a lunch with your clients.  Now is the time to listen to what’s happening in their world.  It’s not time to pitch a new idea or ask for a sale.  Lunches are a wonderful way to reconnect and hear about your client’s goals, dreams, aspirations and challenges.  Naturally you’ll discuss business matters but keep lunches light and focused on getting to know your client.  Thank them once again for the business and remind them that you’re always around if they have any questions or concerns about the company.

Remember, complacency is a silent killer! Many people who feel you’re indifferent to their business will simply leave and go elsewhere.  Be sure to take action with one or a combination of these strategies to further increase loyalty and ultimately the bottom-line.


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Lifetime Value of a Client

 

We’ve all heard the expression that it costs less to retain an existing client than it does to attract a new one.

Marketing efforts should be focused on your existing members, donors and clients. This means that your time and energy should be put towards building lasting relationships with the people who are currently loyal to your organization.

So often, businesses are focused on marketing to a cold prospect while ignoring the immense opportunities that lie in your existing database.  Let’s take a look at client value and I hope you’ll be able to agree with me that nurturing existing relationships will pay huge dividends in the long run. Your existing member spends $1000.00 annually for their membership.  Perhaps there’s some dissatisfaction that member has voiced they leave.  Will the association lose $1000.00 in revenue? We’ll no, not really, you’ve actually lost much more than that.  Does the average member belong to your association for 5 years, 10 years, perhaps event 20 years?  When that’s the case, we need to examine the lifetime value of the membership which means that an unhappy member reflects a loss upwards of $5000.00, $10,000.00 and $20,000.00!

Your donor who typically spends the same amount each year and choses to go with another charity will result in a similar loss.

For entrepreneurs, we often think “oh well that was only a $500.00 loss” but how many times would that client normally purchase from you?  Is it three times a year? Ten times a year? If it were ten times a year at $500.00 and the relationship has been severed and perhaps that client had a ten year potential that $500.00 would actually be more like $50,000.00 in lost revenue.

That’s a staggering number and that doesn’t even include the typical amount of business that client may have referred you over the years. So enough of the doom and gloom, I put those numbers there to illustrate the importance of relationship building in business and appreciating the lifetime value of the people we serve.

Spend your time and energy nurturing the relationships from your current client base.  Make sure that they know how much their patronage means to you.  Do small inexpensive things to remind your clients just how important they are.  Send a personally handwritten note, set up a quarterly meeting intended as a discovery session.  Check the temperature of their account.  Are they pleased with the service you’re providing, could you do anything to improve your service. This meeting is not a sales call, you’re letting your member/donor/client know that you don’t want to become complacent and value their business.

Proactively spend your marketing budgets and efforts on your existing relationships and think of each client’s lifetime value.  This will significantly impact your day-to-day dealings and the way in which you handle each transaction!


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Another Slice of Humble Pie

I have to share a client success story with you! As you know, I’m a big believer in personal notes and one of the unconventional times I encourage clients to send notes is when they DON’T get the business.
In …this case, the gentleman I was working with took my advice and won a handsome commission as a result!
Someone came in to purchase a vehicle from his dealership. The family ended up purchasing their car elsewhere, another brand actually. I encouraged him to follow up with a note to thank them for their time and remind them that he was there as a resource for their friends and family in the future.
The recipient was so impressed by my client’s humility as well as personal care that they immediately referred him to a friend looking to purchase a vehicle.
A week after the card had been sent; the referred prospect walked in and purchased a vehicle because this salesman left such an impression!
pie
I’m confident his story is shared at dinner parties within this circle of friends, wonderful impression made and another slice of humble piece that leaves a great taste in everyone’s mouth!