Care about your clients, don’t manage them

While I agree that a CRM helps you be more organised, don’t you think that successful relationships are built on more than databases and sales pipelines?

At the moment, I feel like I am constantly reading about software that improves Customer Relationship Management – CRM. Software is important and will help you be more organised but, don’t you agree that successful relationships are built on more than databases and sales pipelines?

So I say, let’s dispense with this malarkey that customer relationship management is a business strategy that’s designed to reduce costs and increase profitability. Instead, how about genuinely caring about your customers and remembering that they each face similar but different, life and work challenges.

Back in 1997, David Maister asked numerous professionals “what they consider to be the difference between a good secretary and a great secretary.” Great secretaries, he was told:

  • Take pride in their work, and show a personal commitment to quality
  • Reach out for responsibility
  • Anticipate, and don’t wait to be told what to do – they show initiative
  • Do whatever it takes to get the job done
  • Get involved and don’t stick to their assigned role
  • Are always looking for ways to make things easier for (those they serve) their client
  • Are eager to learn as much about the business of (those they serve) their client
  • Really listen to the needs of (those they serve) their client
  • Learn to understand and think like (those they serve) their client so they can represent them when they are not there
  • Are team players
  • Can be trusted with confidences
  • Are honest, trustworthy, and loyal
  • Are open to constructive critiques on how to improve.

This list can be summarised in one phrase: Great secretaries care.

You perhaps you noticed that where David Maister used those they serve, I’ve changed it to their client. And that’s because, to me, this list represents two things. Firstly, as David Maister stated, it represents a definition of what it means to be professional. And secondly, it represents the ethos behind everything Saunders & Lee does.

We care about our clients, and we always take the time to understand and learn who they are; what they want from their business; their ultimate goals and the challenges they face personally and professionally. Because we care about our clients, we’re fortunate to now have excellent collaborative partnerships that have matured and improved with age.

We’re not entirely altruistic though. If I’m honest, it’s also about us having fun. As Dale Carnegie wrote:

“You’ll have more fun and success helping other people achieve their goals than you will trying to reach your own goals”. There is immense satisfaction knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, and it’s our view that business relationships should be personal.

Customer relationship management isn’t a process; it’s a way of being, a mindset, and we’d like to share five principles that ensure your customers are treated individually and attentively.

  1. Communication is key: Remember the ‘two ears, one mouth’ rule and listen to what your customers are telling you. Think about how often and why you speak with your customers – are you only calling them when you need to make a sale or close a deal?Don’t focus on sales-drive communications. Involve your customers in what you’re doing. Do you have a newsletter or a new tool you’re testing out? Include your clients and ask them to help you in the beta testing/reading stages. They may be busy, but involving them demonstrates that you care about what they think, that you’re not just interested in getting a sale. You’ve given them a metaphorical stake in your company.For any new connections you make, act immediately – send a “nice to meet you” email; send them a copy of your newsletter and ask if they’d like to be added to the list.
  2. Give stuff away: Rewards or incentives don’t have to be financial. It’s all about recognising and understanding your customers; learning about each of them and gearing rewards around their habits, likes and dislikes). When you regularly stay in touch and know your customer, it’s easier to give something of value like an invitation to a special event, helpful insights and advice, or news that is of interest to them.
  3. Get up close and personal: Loyal customers are your best advocates so make the extra effort to see them face-to-face wherever possible. Remember, they will hear about business opportunities and will put business your way so make sure you stay in touch. If you don’t, your competitors will.
  4. Be flexible: Be quick, attentive and accepting of a customer’s problems or complaints. Customers want their concerns fixed, and solutions found. If you’re not providing this level of service, someone else will. Stick with the age-old mantra that the customer is always right, and you won’t go far wrong.
  5. Honesty is always the best policy: Always be genuine in the way that you do business – that’s what gets results.

Finally, remember that people do business with people, not with companies, and definitely not with Customer Relationship Management systems.

If you are prepared to help others succeed, and genuinely care about their success, then you will forge loyal and natural relationships that money simply cannot buy.