Perception is reality. So what do your clients really think of you? Would you be happy with how they perceive you?
Which of the following are they thinking about you and your company?
- I’m so glad I’ve met you; my life/business is better off for knowing you.
- Oh, that guy (gal). Yeah, they’re pretty good.
- They’re nice but I don’t always have the time to chat with them.
- That arrogant so and so.
- Aargh! I don’t trust them, get them out of my office now.
It takes time and effort to build and create really valuable and viable relationships. To the client, having a relationship with a salesperson, business development manager or account manager who sells to them and manages their account means very little unless they perceive that we bring real value to them and the business relationship.
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We’ve spoken before about the meaning of value. Our real mission as sales professionals is to find out what value means to each of our clients and in turn have them find value in us, our team, our products/services and the company that we represent.
However, as much as we would like to have a great relationship with all of our clients, we do not seem to be able to achieve this with all of them. It’s a bit like our friendship groups: some are our closest or best friends who we love to spend time with, while others are acquaintances whom we see occasionally and do not value as much as our best friends. Often this is because we do not know them well enough for them to be our best friends or we don’t have the time or inclination to take it any further.
Do you ever get the feeling that your client relationships get stuck in a rut or stall or that they do not value you as much as you value them? We often say, ‘If only they could see what we can really do for them, things would be different.’
How you are perceived by your clients is critical to your success with them. If you do not like how you are being perceived by your clients there are things you can do to change their perception.
The following table aligns customer perceptions to you, your product/service with the expected behaviours you are likely to see from them. It then offers tips about what to do to shift the perception to a better place.
|Perception of relationship||Client behaviour||How to shift client perceptions up the ladder|
|Commodity||Sees your offering as a commodity; same as the competitors; they show no loyalty and have high price sensitivity; constantly asking for cheaper prices||Differentiate your offering by presenting your competitive edge; highlight relevant benefits and demonstrate value beyond product|
|Product/service provision||Sees more value in your offer but still looks elsewhere; low or some loyalty but still have high price sensitivity||Enhance customer experience by being a problem solver using your knowledge and experience|
|Value-add||Loyalty is growing; likely to call if looking at new deals but may still have you go up against competitors; less price sensitive and looking more at total ownership cost||Understand real customer needs and priorities and create more value by being a problem preventer, not just a problem solver|
|Partner||High loyalty to you and your company; you are called on for advice and guidance and they see your offering as adding real value; lower price sensitivity, more emphasis on real value and total cost of ownership||Offer a full management partner process|
As clients, we all like to buy from someone whom we trust, both the individual and the company they represent. The other day our team at Barrett was discussing how our clients perceive us and what they really like about us (based on their feedback and testimonials) and the overwhelming theme was that they really valued our straight talking, no BS, tell-it-like-it-is approach, our ability to demystify things and our ability to map a pathway forward to success and appropriately equip them and their teams for the journey ahead. That doesn’t happen by accident. We have to earn the reputation.
There are a number of things we can do that will help engender that trust and build highly effective client relationships based on real value:
- Be open and honest in all communications
- Keep the customer informed of processes, knowledge, market information, new products and ideas, etc.
- Be interested in their business
- Be a real professional and help them define what ‘Success’ will look like
- Create and offer a planned approach for change
- Use your business acumen and commercial awareness to offer ideas and make good decisions
- Think about possibility and help realise real results
- Above all, be consistent – consistently good
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au