Ask yourself these questions: Are you the kind of person people want to do business with? Do you have your customers' best interests in mind? Are you truly interested in your customers? Do you spend more time talking or listening to your customers? Do you make a habit of asking your customers questions? Do you spend most of your time with customers making statements? Do you really know your customers? Do you really understand your customers? Do you lead your customers? Do you help your customers? How are you serving your customers?
It takes character and courage to put your customers' interests above your own. It is much easier to give a sales presentation and then ask for the order than it is to try to understand and lead a customer. It takes character to live by your beliefs. It takes courage to trust in your customer.
People feel important when you respond to them. In a retail store this response is usually no more than a cashier taking a customer's money and hopefully thanking them. Loyalty is created when a deeper, more meaningful response is made. Usually, when a customer arrives at an appliance store or car dealership the salesperson asks, "Can I help you?" or "Can I show you something?" The customer responds with, "I'm just looking," or "I'm interested in a refrigerator," or "I'm interested in a four-door sedan." The salesperson then begins to tout his product and launches into a description of whatever he has to sell. This is nothing more or less than a sales presentation. The salesperson has only demonstrated his ability to recite, not the ability to respond.
When that customer entered the appliance store or car dealership, he brought his entire history with him. He brought every bit of experience he has had with refrigerators or automobiles. He brought every bit of experience he has had in making major purchases. He wants to do business with a person who will recognize and respond to that experience. If the salesperson asks, "What kind of refrigerator do you have now?" or says, "Tell me about the car I saw you driving up in." the customer will be delighted to share his experiences. The specifics of your business aren't important, every customer has either had or not had experience with it. If this is his first car, refrigerator, custom draperies, house, or dining room table he wants you to know about it and respond. If he is an experienced buyer, he wants you to know about that as well. The customer wants you to know so you will respond to his likes and dislikes, good experiences and bad.
When you know what the customer's experiences have been, you begin to know about him. The more you know about him, the more you can respond to him and his experiences.
Doctors and dentists get high marks for learning as much as possible about their patients' health before they attempt to diagnosis problems or prescribe cures. Their procedure is designed to make them responsible. Medical professionals don't tout their education or qualification before they begin their examination: Their attention is focused on the patient. In the waiting room, the patient completes a form asking: vital statistics, the patient's medical history, family medical history, and the purpose of today's visit. Your doctor or dentist will review and discuss this information before they address your current health issue. They are demonstrating an interest in you. They want to know as much about you, as it pertains to your health, as possible. They are dealing with you as an individual, and they are demonstrating your unique importance.
How do you interact with your customers? Do you learn as much as possible about them and their circumstance so you can know, understand, help, and lead them?
As an exercise, write a list of how you deal with a sample customer. Choose a customer you are currently doing business with. Your list should describe everything you do to prepare for your transaction with this customer:
Did you make an appointment?
Did you research your past transactions with this customer?
What did you do to learn additional information about this customer before you met with her?
Your list should include everything that takes place while you are with the customer:
Are you talking or are you listening?
What do you do to indicate the customer's importance?
Your list should include everything you do to follow up with the customer after the transaction is completed:
Did you send a personal thank you note?
Did you call the customer to get their post purchase impressions?
My wife and I recently met Jay, a construction attorney from Indianapolis, at a dinner party. He told us that his firm goes to great expense to entertain its clients. Jay said that his clients appreciated being recognized as important customers. "Sometimes," he said, "clients don't like or want to be entertained. I have a client that represents a substantial and growing part of my practice. I invited this client to a ball game. I had box seats in a luxury suite. The client told me that he didn't do that sort of thing. What do I do in a situation like that?" I told Jay the best way to demonstrate his client's importance is to honor the client's request. Don't invite him to outings or other entertainment venues but do tell him, "I really appreciate your business. The business you do with our firm is growing and has a substantial impact on my success. I'm telling you this so you will know how important you are to me. Thank you for your continuing loyalty."
Your list should note everything you do that tells your customer in words and actions how important they are to you and how well you know and understand them. You are only able to respond to your customer's needs, wants, and desires if you know and understand them. They will notice and appreciate your preparation and dealings with them as an important customer. They will recognize you as a person doing business with them as an important individual.
Ben Feldman was a legendary insurance agent with New York Life. Ben sold billions of dollars of insurance in his hometown of East Liverpool, Ohio. He was a shy fellow with a slight lisp and not at all what you would picture a super salesman type. I saw Ben being interviewed at a sales convention. The interviewer asked Ben what his clients thought of him. Ben said, "I guess they would say I'm a little bit of a stinker. They would say I push a little too much. But I push because I care about my customers as people. I care enough about my customers to do my homework. I have carefully asked them questions so I know what they want to accomplish. When I push them, I'm really helping them make a decision." Ben Feldman is no longer with us, but before his death he led New York Life in sales and customer loyalty. Ben understood that people always do business with people. Ben believed every one of his customers were important and worthy of his best effort in knowing, understanding, helping, and leading them.