A popular question I’m often asked from service providers is how to best gain more clients. Simply, you gain clients by taking the time to build long term relationships. Seasoned sales folks recognize this investment of time and it’s not about how fast they can get a prospect to exchange their money for your services and products right this moment. Way too often, the focus is on how we can do business with people, not how can we serve people. See the subtle but clear difference?
Recently, during travels, I went into one of my favorite boutique chain stores. Being in retail as long as I’ve been, I immediately noticed certain things that were a bit “off.” The three store associates were huddled together apparently chatting about the prior night’s event. They didn’t look up to greet me or acknowledge me; they were too engaged in their own discussions. I meandered throughout the store for 20 minutes, picked out some outfits and headed into the fitting room — all by myself — with no assistance. Up to this point, I really didn’t mind too much. I tried on a few outfits and decided to purchase one. I went up to the cashwrap with my merchandise, where the cashier asked me if I found everything I needed. “Yes, I’m all set, thanks.” She leaves the cashwrap to a nearby sales tower and grabs a flowery accessory. She places it on my outfit and states: “This goes great with your outfit.” Now, I’m not really the flowery type. I examine it — it appears to be a pin of some sort. I politely decline. She presses: “Flowers are really the ‘in’ look now — I really think you should buy it.” She picks up the flower and places it back on my outfit. “No really, I’m not looking for accessories now.” I move the flower off my outfit. “But it’s on sale,” she persisted, and placed it back on top of the outfit. At this point, as annoyed as I was — I do give her kudos for her persistence. But she didn’t get it. I had no desire to buy that flowery pin and certainly no desire from a pushy sales person. There was absolutely no acknowledgement or contact from the time I walked into the store until 30 minutes later when I was at the cashwrap. So who is this person? Why would I trust her to tell me “flowers are the ‘in look’?” Maybe she’s just trying to get rid of an excess inventory of flowery accessories? Maybe she needs to meet her minimum sales goal for the week? Who knows and frankly who cares? Point is, she knows nothing about me and I know nothing about her. Why would I want to make this purchase from this person? This sales person didn’t get it, you cannot force feed a sale….especially when you just acknowledged me only 20 seconds ago.
Now this was for a simple one-time purchase of an $18.95 flowery accessory. Can you understand the magnitude of contracting work with a company for thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars? There is a trust you must gain from your prospect that when you send your team member or subcontractor into their stores to resolve a problem — when tempers are already heightened and patience is worn thin — you will resolve the issue. Can you understand and appreciate the incredible role you play as their service provider? If you do, then you get it. You won’t be mad rushing for sales but rather you’ll understand the importance of taking the time to learn of your clients’ needs and how they operate. What you can do to better serve them is all part of the courting part of a business relationship. Your prospects will most likely do business with you if they know more about you, share common interests, understand how your business can serve them and, most of all, trust you. So take the approach and the time to invest into building long term relationships.
— Grace Daly is an industry leader in retail design, construction and facilities, as well as an avid career coach. She is currently the Executive Director of Construction & Facility Conferences for InterFace Conference Group.