Can Your Sales Team’s Rapport with Clients Be Too Strong?
By Colleen Francis
Relationships between companies and their clients are complex in nature, the deepest link being between the sales rep themselves with their clients. One frequent issue that often arises is the level of rapport between a customer and an individual sales rep. Companies are often concerned that if that sales rep leaves for any reason, whether they are fired or otherwise choose to leave on their own, that customer will go with them. They worry that a strong rapport between their sales rep and a customer will result in loyalty to the individual, rather than the relationship. It’s a valid concern, but there are ways to combat the issue that will lead to a stronger overall bond with your client.
Balance is essential in these relationships, to ensure closeness between the sales rep and client, as well as safeguard loyalty to the company. To create a balanced relationship that ties the client’s loyalty to the company and not a single individual, it’s critical that your company takes time to cultivate the following five relationship levels within your organization:
Level One: Personal Rapport. Clients need to have to develop strong personal rapport with their primary contact, that sales person. They have to know them, like them and trust them so they’ll be compelled to buy from them. It’s important as a sales leader to help foster this relationship and acknowledge its significance.
Level Two: Business Rapport: Being known liked and trusted is not enough. Today, buyers also need to know that you are a business expert in their line of work. You build business rapport by adding value to every interaction. Ask yourself this question when you meet with the client (in their office or when out for coffee): “How is what I am doing, saying or bringing to the client improving their situation?”
Level Three: Corporate Rapport. At a higher level, the customer has to develop a strong corporate rapport with your organization. That means that they trust the corporation. How do you do that? Well the first and easiest step is to ensure the customer knows who the other people are inside the organization. Some key relationships that they should be developing include one with you as the sales leader. If the business is small, the owner of the business should also have some level of rapport with the customer. Additionally, if you have a tech support team or a customer service team, clients should have primary contacts on that team. Lastly, contact with the management, directors or the leadership of that organization is crucial as well. These key leadership contacts are essential to helping the client feel as though they are being given special attention and most importantly, helping them develop loyalty to the company as a whole.
Level Four: Customer Advisory Panel. For some of your best customers, you might also consider having the highest level link, a customer advisory panel. This provides your customers with a third relationship level within your corporation in that they're developing relationships within your customer base. This connection will acknowledge the strong association between the two groups, with your company as the connecting link. This bond is an added reinforcement that it’s in the best interest of the client to stay with your company.
Level Five: Testimonials and Case Studies: Once you’ve spent a good deal of energy building rapport with clients, the next step is to further strengthen your relationship with testimonials and case studies. We have found that when a client publically states how much they love your product or how much your company has transformed their business and that is in writing or video or audio, a part of your marketing material, it’s very difficult for that customer to leave your organization. Aside from helping to cement your relationship with your current customers, a testimonial or case study allows you to leverage your relationship to grow new client leads.
The secret to effective testimonials is to ensure they highlight a current customer who is in business today, that they’re credible, and that the customer is similar to other prospects you want to attract and shares a similar business case. The most critical component of a testimonial is that it must be compelling; it should also be objective and when possible, measurable. A great client testimonial not only provides another piece of support in your relationship with the current client, but it can also be a very powerful source of new business and leads.
By taking the steps to develop a deep relationship with your client in which they touch and are familiar with many layers of your organization and their fellow customers, you can help protect yourself from a customer becoming too strongly attached to a single person within the company. By following our steps, you can meet your goal of creating customer loyalty to your company overall.
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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