My father, a lifelong salesperson, used to say, You will never run out of things to talk about if you ask the other person about themselves. Think of the widely-used acronym FORD – Family, Occupation Recreation, and Dreams. Talk to customers in a way to fill in the acronym.
My Vistage member, Greg Newell, of Nave Newell, wondered how he could increase sales through his existing customer base. His project manager employees were civil engineers who typically weren’t comfortable in a “sales” role. Yet, they were the ones in touch with the customers and the most likely candidates to get referrals for future potential business.
But how could he motivate them to do this? By taking the pressure off of them to ask for referrals and placing the emphasis on building the relationship with the customer. That’s how he did it.
They began by asking each project manager to choose two customers each month with whom to have lunch. They weren’t asked to ask for business. Instead, they were asked to have a conversation with the customer, get to know him/her personally, ask about their family, their job, the ways they liked to vacation, or hobbies they had. They showed the customer their legitimate interest and care and they built relationships with the customers.
They began to track the referral of new business from these existing customers and the upward curve consistently tracked the lunches they were having. It was an easy, human way to not only get to know their customer but to develop relationships with them, and as a result, continue to do business with that customer.
By putting the emphasis on building personal connections with your customers, you can increase sales while also strengthening your existing business relationships.