A relationship must exist before you can effectively communicate with your customer. Consider every transaction you have with a customer to be a specific mission: Having a customer buy a product is a mission. Providing customer service is a mission. Setting an appointment is a specific mission. In order for your customers or anyone else to complete a mission, they have to recognize, understand, and agree to a relationship.
Have you ever been in a store and approached someone to ask a question? You think the person whom you are asking a question is a clerk in the store. That person acts indignant and informs you, "I don't work here." She may know the answer to your question, but she is compelled to tell you, "I don't work here." The indignant customer tells you she doesn't work here in order to establish the relationship. Now that you know the person doesn't work at that store, you are also uncomfortable because a relationship didn't exist when you asked the question. Without a relationship in place, both of you feel a sense of anxiety.
The same people, the same store, the same situation, but with different words: "I know you don't work here, but could you me tell where the bakery department is?" Put your mind in this situation. Do you notice a difference? Doesn't this exchange have a different feel? The difference is because a relationship exists. Now both parties feel comfortable and can complete, or attempt to complete, the mission of figuring out where the bakery department is located.
Have you ever received a call like this from a telemarketer? "Hello, Mrs. Jones. This is Bob from the Acme Phone Company. How are you today?" Your immediate thought is, Bob has a lot of nerve asking me how I am. He doesn't know me from a load of coal. He doesn't care how I am. He doesn't have a right to ask me how I am. The problem here is that no relationship exists. Here is the same scenario with the same people, same mission, but different words: "Hello, Mrs. Jones. This is Bob from the Acme Phone Company. You don't know me. I know you were not expecting my call. You are not currently a customer of the Acme Phone Company. The purpose of my call is to schedule a time later this week to visit over the phone to discuss some of the advantages Acme offers our customers." These words establish a relationship. The words, "You don't know me. I know you were not expecting my call. You are not currently a customer of Acme Phone company," establishes a relationship. Now you can move ahead with the mission of making an appointment. There isn't a sense of anxiety. The prospect may not agree to an appointment, but you will at least have a relationship from which you can discuss an appointment. Before establishing a relationship, you would have only received an, "I'm not interested," unless the prospect was already set on buying something from the Acme Phone Company.
Before any mission can be undertaken, a relationship must first exist. Creation or explanation of the relationship is the first step in completing any mission with your prospects or clients.
This principle of establishing a relationship is just as important in situations where you are dealing with an existing client or customer. Ken Bentley was a leading producer in the life insurance business for many years. Ken had a spectacular career and sold life insurance to many well-known people, including Muhammad Ali and Dick Van Dyke.
Ken understood and used the concept of establishing and confirming a relationship in all of his sales interviews. Even with existing clients that he had been dealing with for years, Ken would start each sales interview with a review of the relationship.
Ken kept detailed records of all transactions he had with his clients. In many cases where the client had a more public life, Ken kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles about his client. Before he ever reviewed current policies or talked about new life insurance, Ken would open the scrapbook or other records and revisit the relationship he shared with his client. Before he would undertake any new mission, Ken would make sure the client was reminded of the existing relationship. Any talk of new insurance only came after Ken reinforced his identity as the client's insurance agent. This confirmation of the relationship made the sales of new insurance an easy mission.
The technique of establishing or reestablishing a relationship works equally well with both new prospects and existing customers when you want to complete a mission.