Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Talk to a Customer Every Day

People buy from people.

It's one of those sayings that bounces around in sales training workshops, along with 'sell the benefits not the features'. A truth we all know but too often forget.

Like most pearls of wisdom it's not entirely accurate. I buy quite a lot of stuff from and other online retailers but I've never knowingly spoken to an Amazon employee in my life.

On the other hand I go out of my way to speak with my customers on a fairly regular basis. Why? Because I believe in the general principle - people will often choose to buy from someone they know. And you only get to know someone by communicating with them.

It's too easy for businesses, particularly in the B2B space, to take their customers for granted. But take a look at the list of accounts on your sales ledger. How many of them have been inactive for more than a year? Do you know why? How many have gone away because someone else built a better relationship with them?

When I ran a training business, as part of a global software company, I made a point of speaking to a customer daily. Okay, it didn't actually happen every single day, but it was a principle I applied as often as I could.

Can I prove that it generated more business? No I can't. But the people I called kept sending people on courses. They came to a web-based training workshop I ran and bought into online education before it was mainstream. They listened when I offered new education consulting services.

My challenge to everyone who runs a business is this: find ten minutes a day to call a customer and have a chat. How's business? Was the last delivery okay? I heard you've had cutbacks - are you alright?

Be a human, not a salesman. People buy from people.

This article expands on one of the 10 Marketing Tips for Small Business.

Andrew Knowles is a freelance writer.

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