by Scott Hunter
February 28, 2012

Customers prefer to do business with people who seem genuinely interested in them and care about their concerns. Unless salespeople appropriately start and nurture customer relationships, customers will not return, and they certainly will not refer their friends.

Successful contractors teach their entire staff how to develop strong customer relationships. Some company leaders educate their sales force about customer relations by using buzzwords such as “total quality management,” “customer satisfaction index,” “zero defects,” “client service,” etc. But what does all this mean to salespeople? A fundamental change has taken place in customer service, and the companies who realize this and adapt will be the companies that achieve success in 2012 and beyond.

Relationships = Construction Sales

Profitable customer relationships must be built upon a solid foundation of mutual respect and understanding. The limits of accomplishment, productivity and satisfaction within a construction company depend on the nature and quality of the relationships developed between the company’s salespeople and customers.

Today’s salespeople must recognize importance of building rich, quality relationships with their customers.

The Relationship-Building Process

Developing and nurturing a customer relationship starts with the initial meeting. A salesperson who gets down to business when first meeting a prospective customer has already made the biggest mistake. At this point, the salesperson’s objective should be to build a strong relationship of trust, not to sell any particular product or service. 

During the initial meeting, the salesperson should thank the customer for the meeting, and be warm and friendly. They should never sit behind a desk. Instead, your salespeople should meet customers in a comfortable, neutral area, and spend 10 to 15 minutes getting to know the customer. And they should not start the actual business discussion until they feel comfortable with the prospective customer and the customer feels comfortable with them. As the conversation proceeds, they must be sensitive to the developing relationship.

If you think you will not enjoy working with a particular customer or if a sense of mutual respect and trust is absent, do not take the customer’s business because you might regret it later. Consider your past experiences—for every disgruntled customer and every customer you have regretted working with, you most likely suspected that dissatisfaction from the beginning. Do not make the same mistake again. Only work with the customer when you know you will both enjoy doing business together. 

You and your salespeople must maintain frequent communication with customers and regularly check on them  throughout the process. Never assume the customers’ needs have been taken care of—instead, ask for feedback to meet their expectations. 

Many salespeople avoid asking customers for feedback because they do not want to hear a negative response, but this is a mistake. The customer will eventually let you know what they think regardless by either not paying their bill or complaining about you to others. 

Periodically, ask customers if you can do anything additional for them. Your long-term success depends on your ability to communicate with your customers and keep them informed about products and/or services that may benefit them. No customer satisfaction survey can take the place of this personal contact.

GUARANTEED SUCCESS

Your customers do business with you, not your company. While quality products and services are important, they will always be second to the relationship you and your customer develop. Developing relationships will guarantee continued customer loyalty, repeat business and referrals.