Having been in technology sales for many years, I am often asked, by new and seasoned sales professionals alike, about how to create strong and lasting client relationships. While many are hoping for an easy answer, there isn’t one. Great salespeople are driven by a set of guiding principles that combine customer service and the desire to see clients achieve success long after a sale is completed.
The sale is but a moment in time and should always be secondary in thought – the sale is simply the outcome of developing a trusted relationship. Strong client relationships last for many years and your reputation as a salesperson is defined by consistency.
With that said, salespeople can be infamously known for never been seen again post-sale. At the time of the sale, your client trusted you and selected your company as a partner to deliver business value to their organization. Being known as a “vanishing salesperson” is the quickest way to destroying a business relationship.
Not only does this behaviour damage your company’s brand, it erodes your personal brand with negative ramifications to client relationships. Know that CIOs and business leaders share stories of which sales reps they like and which ones they don’t. Personal credibility takes years to build up through consistent behaviour, but can be ruined in an instant. At every client interaction, it is important to remember the following:
- Your paycheck is courtesy of your customers, not your company.
- The quality of customer service is judged by each individual client.
- Your company has its brand and you have your personal brand – know the difference!
Customer service: Be popular with your clients, not with your colleagues.
Solving client service issues often requires the help of colleagues within your own company or partner community. What can a salesperson do to be prepared when client issues arise?
1) Become keenly aware of how to navigate your own company and partner community for issue resolution processes.
2) Develop key internal stakeholder relationships that you can draw upon to help solve a client’s problem.
3) Client service issues are stressful for both the client and the salesperson. Always be respectful to your colleagues, but be prepared to escalate internally when appropriate if you are not getting the desired result for your client within an acceptable time frame.
Moments of truth
Sound like a lot of work? Yes, it is, but your clients will appreciate your effort and thank you for stepping up when they needed you most. Client issues are the moments of truth that will separate you from other salespeople as you become known for delivering as promised. This begs the question: How do you know that you have a strong personal brand for delivering as promised? For example, your clients may feel compelled to write a recommendation about you on LinkedIn, which is a powerful endorsement and visible to potential clients. Whether through LinkedIn or a Google search, customers today have the ability to discover and learn about your reputation as a salesperson.
The customer experience is the culmination of individual moments over time – day after day, year after year. Take the long-term view with your client relationships and not only will your clients be successful, you will be successful too.