Last month, at the Association of Briefing Program Managers (ABPM) annual spring conference in Washington, D.C., customer intimacy was the hot topic of conversation.
I left the event more convinced than ever that it’s the key to customer loyalty.
Let me explain why, and also what you can do to build stronger, more intimate relationships with your customers.
What is customer intimacy?
Customer intimacy is a term that’s been in the communication skills industry’s vernacular for years. But, what does it really mean?
Essentially, what it implies: A customer intimacy strategy helps you build closer and more trusting relationships with your customers.
Companies that make a conscious choice to build customer intimacy do all they can to understand a customer’s world, in order to help them be more successful. Only when you possess a profound understanding of your customer’s needs and wants (even the unconscious ones), can you respond effectively to them.
Why build customer intimacy?
The benefit of developing customer intimacy is akin to the benefit of developing close personal relationships: Those relationships last and are more satisfying.
Companies who make customer intimacy an imperative are looking at the long-term. They know that loyal customers buy more over time.
How can you create customer intimacy?
One conversation at a time.
At Mandel, we believe that a conversation should cycle between inquiry and advocacy. In other words, be curious or ask questions about your customer’s world and then make recommendations based on what you’ve learned.
This inquiry/advocacy dialogue is the foundation for building stronger, more trusting relationships. Your customers begin to see, by your behavior, that you’ve heard what they have to say and are making recommendations with their best interests at heart.
It may sound simple, but people often break a customer’s trust by jumping straight into making recommendations. Or, if they ask questions first, they then make recommendations that don’t reflect a customer’s responses. This leaves customers feeling unheard and like they’re being “sold.”
Change the game by listening well.
At the ABPM conference, an executive shared a story about his team’s recent sales call. After actively listening to the prospect talk about their business challenges, the team then engaged in a consultative dialogue about those challenges.
In fact, they resisted the natural tendency to go into a sales pitch so well that, at the conclusion of the visit, the prospect asked, "When are you going to tell us what we can buy from you?!"
Listening with a sincerely curious mind helps uncover new needs and opportunities. Listening well also creates a safe environment for customers to raise their objections, so you can address and resolve them quickly.
Stop drilling for facts. Ask thought-provoking questions.
A thoughtful questioning strategy makes it possible to understand the world from your customer’s point of view.
Avoid the temptation to drill for facts. Facts are table stakes. Know those before you have a customer conversation. Instead, ask about things that you can’t discover on your own.
For example, what’s her perspective on her company’s current competitive crisis? How would he address that challenge if money were no object? How is the change in management impacting her team’s commitment to the project?
Make a recommendation that shows you care.
When you start to see the world as your customer sees it, make a recommendation that demonstrates your understanding and your commitment to your customer’s success.
Be bold. Be sincere. And, be there for the long term. With customer intimacy as your goal, you’ll build relationships that last.
Would your customers say you understand their business needs and can engage them in a dialogue based on their interests? Not sure?
Browse Mandel’s offerings for Briefing Center professionals: Think and Speak for Results in the Briefing Center™ and Conversation Skills for Discussion Leaders™.
Or, contact us today to discuss how Mandel can help you develop your sales people into professionals who possess the conversation and presentation skills needed to win the customer’s confidence and business.
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