When it comes to cultivating customer loyalty, sales professionals can only harvest what we sow. There is no action or effort of greater strategic importance than building a foundation upon which a productive, long-term customer relationship can thrive and grow. The process is not necessarily easy, but it is simple, starting with these three key ingredients:
Rapport – The “rapport” that we have with another human being simply reflects how much we like each other, and it is universally recognized that customers buy from people they like. It is a basic, instinctive and powerful dynamic. To have good rapport with customers requires that we first cultivate a personal relationship with them. It is unfortunate when sales professionals don’t grasp the human connectivity required for rapport and, instead, try to take short cuts to win the customer’s affection with gifts, or limit the “personal relationship” to shallow pleasantries. Much more powerful and longer lasting is a sales professional showing genuine interest in the customer on a personal level, consistently exploring for insights into his or her interests, and creating and building upon common ground within the customer’s “Odds Are.”
Credibility – We cultivate “credibility” among customers with our knowledge and expertise. The more unique and innovative our insights, the more value we deliver to the customer. This ingredient for customer loyalty is also the most difficult. Valuable insights don’t just happen, they require research, engagement and ongoing professional development. But the effort is worth it, since there is a direct and nearly perfect relationship between the level of credibility we hold with customers and the level of influence we hold with them.
Trust – There is an age-old saying…“customers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There are two dimensions to the level of trust our customers place in us. The first is related to our credibility (see above) and the degree to which our customer can trust that we know what we are talking about. The second dimension is related to our character and integrity. To cultivate their loyalty, customers must be able to trust us with regard to honesty (always tell the truth), candor (to be honest even if we don’t agree with them) and dependability (do what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to do it).
Customer loyalty is what grows when customers like us, trust us and recognize that we deliver superior value to them. Where customer loyalty is cultivated, sales professionals will enjoy the fruits of Preferred Position and long-term sales success.