Getting to Know Your Customers
Have you called any customers today? Not to problem solve or sell them but to connect with them.
A simple phone call can mean a lot. Conduct a little customer behavior research by casually interviewing them. Find out what their greatest business challenge is this month. Find out where they are really succeeding. Ask them to tell you stories about what's going on in their business or industry. Ask them what they are reading.
Try and get to know them a little better. Ask open ended questions. Ask if they have any family that's effected by the hurricanes this month. This is a great ice breaker to find out some useful personal information about your client. If they say yes you can follow up asking where they are and how they have come through it all. If they say no you can easily ask where their family is located and where they grew up.
Why do this? Why take up your time and theirs? Because it offers a wealth of information you can use. Any stories you hear about a customers business can generate ideas for new or improved offerings on your part. If they face a challenge you have found your way through you might offer some sound advice that will strengthen your B2B relationship and their customer loyalty.
Personal information can inform your efforts to connect with them on their birthday. You might find out that they grew up in Kansas City. Next time you close a deal with them you might send them a bottle of Zarda's Barbecue sauce (a local favorite) as a thank you. They will appreciate the fact that you remembered a personal detail about them. The point is you can personalize your B2B relationships so that customers and prospects treat you as a friend and a business partner not just a salesman.
How do you do all this? A simple usable Customer Relationship Management(CRM) system is a must. These memory aids can be hugely valuable when it comes to tracking customer details. Most good systems allow you to track customer contact information and communication details. Notes from phone calls, emails, letters, meetings should be logged for future follow up.
CRM systems also interface with calendar systems allowing you to set memory ticklers to prompt follow-ups with contacts you are building b2b relationships with. Client casually mentions their upcoming vacation or their daughters wedding. Why not set a follow up phone call to see how everything went?
Seems simple but how many people are doing it? Everybody is busy but a few phone calls or timely emails can go a long way when trying to forge profitable B2B relationships.
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Great suggestions. Thanks!
Posted by: aleah sato | Sep 18, 2004 10:24:16 AM
Very interesting suggestions. Seems like something great could come of this with minimal effort--I wonder how one would strike a balance between appreciated and wanted interaction with customers and being perceived as bothersome by calling up to chat...
Posted by: Sarah | Sep 20, 2004 2:04:53 PM
Yes, there's a fine line between honest inquiry for the sake of connection and being annoying. It is important to be respectful of customers -- that may be knowing when to leave them alone and knowing when to bring out the bottle of (BBQ) sauce.
Posted by: Susan | Sep 20, 2004 4:01:31 PM
Any recommendations on a good CRM system? How much do they cost?
Posted by: Mike | Sep 29, 2004 2:24:12 PM
CRM systems come in many forms. Many people find the full functionality of Outlook to provide enough database functionality.
I have used ACT software which is available for a few hundred dollars and as I recall is a good program. https://www.act.com/
CRM programs can run into the thousands of dollars but some good solid basic functionality can go a long way.
Posted by: Peter | Sep 30, 2004 4:36:56 PM