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Relationship Building in Business Development: Is It Really that Critical?

If you’ve spent any time in customer service or sales, you’ve heard the benefits of connecting with your clients on a personal level.  You know it builds rapport, opens up lines of communication, and all that good warm fuzzy stuff.

But is it really that valuable?  It’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of relationship building.  There’s no exact formula for ROI.  You spend a significant amount of time and money on relationship building, but – let’s face it – you can’t easily monetize it.

I don’t specialize in sales.  But I’ve listened to more than a few sales pitches.  As a media buyer, I can tell you exactly what customers are looking for – and what they’re not.  Here are some things you should know about your client’s expectations before you meet with them:
  1. Understand your customer.  Research your customer’s agency before meeting with them.  Look at their website, sign up for their emails, or maybe even use the ‘secret shopper’ technique to get to know their business. Be ready to tell them exactly how a partnership with you would improve their operations.
  2. Understand your products and services. Marketing is all about finding a need in your customer base and meeting that need with your services.  Products don’t sell themselves – you have to get behind them with knowledge, expertise, and a desire to build a strong business relationship. 
  3. Ask questions.  Get to know your clients personally.  Find out who they are.  What do they enjoy?  What interests them?  Find some common ground, and use that as a talking point in future conversations.  It will show that you care about them as a person and that you’re detail-oriented.
  4. Give direct answers.  Be prepared to answer any questions your client may have.  If you don’t know the answer, say so, but assure them you will find the answer and follow up.  
  5. Give the relationship the focus and attention it deserves.  In business, there’s little as disappointing as a relationship that didn’t live up to the sales pitch.  If you promise to give utmost attention to the account, follow through with that commitment.  Put in the hours.  Do your due diligence.  Constantly look for ways to improve.  Your client will see the impact.
The relationships you develop with clients won’t be the only reason they buy from you, but that will lay the groundwork for fundamental communication and set the stage for growth.  Then comes the real work of meeting needs and proving solid performance every time.

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