The Foundational Big Three to Acquiring and Keeping Customers
Trust, Credibility and Rapport. Print buyers don’t care if you use the best technology, have the best location, or hang out with movie stars. You won’t survive if your foundation is weak.
If a buyer catches you lying just once, they'll question everything you say in the future. If your advice is out of date, they'll ask your competitor. If you just don’t quite gel with them and talk their language, they'd rather not spend time with you. Establish trust, credibility and rapport to create a network of great customers.
Over the past two weeks while attending the MFSA (Mail & Fulfillment Services Association) and IPMA (In–Plant Printing & Mailing Association) Annual Conferences, I noticed sessions were focused more on customer relations and less on technology.
Keynote speaker, John Foley, President of InterlinkOne, presented at the MFSA Conference in Charleston, SC and stressed the importance of social networking to share knowledge, help others and stay connected. John is successful because he lives by the three foundational principles of trust, credibility and rapport.
Next stop was IPMA’s annual conference in Albuquerque, NM, where the keynote, Bill Farquaharson, President of Aspire, explained why customer loyalty in the printing industry isn’t dead, unless you do it to yourself. He stressed the importance of you showing customers how much YOU care. Show them the love!
Yes, you are only as good as your last order, but build up an “emotional bank account” or reserve with your customers. You make a deposit in this emotional bank account every time you go the extra mile, give great advice, and connect with a customer in special ways, or whenever they feel unique and special. You withdraw from the account every time you stretch the truth, miss commitments, give poor advice, have awkward communications, or ask them to jump through hoops.
Trust involves your honesty and integrity. Trust takes much time to earn and little time to lose. Just ask Tiger Woods. Compare Tiger to John Wooden. Both sports super stars, yet in my opinion, complete opposites. Today while flying back from IPMA I am reading all the John Wooden testimonials and stories in USA Today. During his 99 years with us, he touched so many lives in special ways. Tiger is incredible to watch on the course, but John Wooden had such integrity and honor. What a remarkable person. What an emotional bank account he established with so many!
What are you doing to build trust? Are you ALWAYS honest with your customers and employees, leading by example under ALL instances, both personal and professional? Trust goes a long way toward building that emotional bank account.
Sounds simple, yet how many of us are challenged to remain trustworthy when under stress to perform? Don’t waiver on this core principle. Stay strong!
How can you build trust?
• If you mess up, claim it.
• Always explain facts and don’t stretch the truth.
• Respect confidentiality under all conditions.
• Don’t gossip or others will wonder if you will gossip about them.
Credibility is a proficiency issue or, in other words, how good you are. This involves being proficient at your craft, is measured through performance, and expressed by the company you keep. Pick your friends wisely and do things right. Think of your knowledge of your customer’s business or industry to help add credibility. Roll out services and products only after you perfect them or they've been pilot tested. Tell the guinea pigs that they are just that. Show honesty and set expectations upfront. Credibility is conveyed to customers by offering great advice, and delivering quality products and service.
How can you drive credibility with your customers?
• Continue to learn. Never stop.
• Invest in education and show clients what you are doing.
• Hang out with people who are credible.
• Offer advice in areas you are proficient.
• Get to know your customer’s business and internal processes.
This is extremely challenging and what is called the soft stuff. You want customers to like you and to want to be around you. Most people know what trustworthiness is and how to be credible, but rapport building doesn’t come natural to most. Rapport is how you connect with your customers and communicate on their wavelength. Style flexing is changing your communication style to meet the needs of each customer. Not easy. Don’t show sensitivity toward George Steinbrenner when the Yankees are losing, yet don’t get right down to business with Woody Allen.
What can you do to build rapport with customers?
• Get good at style flexing. Practice.
• Get good at reading people and adjusting your communication style.
• Change your mindset from one of “customers just need to get to know me better” to “I need to know how my customer is wired to be effective.”
• If you can’t style flex, then pick customers who appreciate your one-size-fits-all
• Don’t expect customers to change their communication style to fit yours.
• Get psyched about your customer’s business and campaigns and not just print.
In summary, deliberately watch your emotional bank account with customers. You must first earn their trust, prove you know your stuff, and be someone they connect with. Get all three in line and everything else falls into place. Don’t forget the best way to monitor these foundational principles is to get customers feedback through an effective, ongoing survey process.