We’ve discussed the value of relationships in prospecting and sales but fostering a healthy relationship between your company and your customers after the deal has closed is integral to adoption and your organization’s long-term success.
As you read this and reflect on the customer relationships you have developed throughout your career, they may seem as though they have formed rather spontaneously. There is no how-to guide on building relationships with your customers but here are some of the things that we think contribute to building healthy customer relationships to drive mutual success:
Listen. It may seem cliche and go without saying but the reality is that the art of listening is too often neglected in customer communications. We engage our customers with a purpose – to communicate a product release, share a resource, regroup on a project plan, and as a result, end up talking too much. Be prepared to share the stage, you will learn more about your customer, their organization and most importantly, your customers feel valued and respected.
Partner with your customer. Truly partnering with your customer means being mutually vested in their goals. Develop an understanding of their business objectives that your product will support and help the customer shape and meet those objectives. Although you may not have the same level of understanding of their business operations, meet them in the middle, you are the expert on your product and its application.
Advocate. Sometimes companies spend so much time advocating their product to the customer, they forget to be the customer’s advocate. Advocacy for customers demonstrates your commitment to their success as professionals and the success of their organization. Listen to customer feedback, shape it and share it to help drive your product or services in a direction that aligns to their needs. Advocating within the customer’s organization doesn’t always mean telling their management team about the value they are bringing to your mutual project, arm a client with feedback on a report or collaborate on a deliverable to help build their internal profile.
Be human. Although it is important to maintain relationships with customers that respect professional boundaries, it is also important to be human. Draw on cues to learn more about your customers as people. We develop the strongest relationships with people who we can relate to – be relatable. Just like you would be proactive in engaging about your product or service, reach out to wish your customer good luck with a presentation, safe travels on their upcoming vacation, or to share an article you think they would be interested in.
Become the expert on your customer’s business. Customers who are using your product or service likely have a much broader responsibility set and only have a fraction of time to invest in being an expert on your offering. Step up to the plate and become the expert on their business. Research, ask questions, stay connected to news and trends in their industry. Product adoption is too often limited by the gap that exists between your product and your customer’s business. Bridge the gap and help to shape the art of the possible in a way that is relevant. Henry Ford’s innovation is a great example of being an expert on the customer and their unspoken needs. People would have sought a faster horse but Ford knew there was a greater opportunity to innovate. Don’t let the resources or products you deliver be the faster horse for your customer because you didn’t understand their business well enough to effectively shape their needs.
Commit and (over)deliver. Building relationships takes time. There is no window of time in which development of a relationship can be guaranteed, nor is there a window of time after which hopes of building a relationship have been lost. Here’s one surefire way to get a head start – commit and deliver, or better yet, overdeliver. Be cautious with your commitments, if there are variables or resources you cannot control for, commit to a status update and a timeline as follow-up. Delivering on your promises establishes the trust that will be the foundation of your customer relationship.
How do you build relationships with your customers?