Knowing your market—and effectively targeting it—is critically important, of course. We segment, we test, we retest, we evaluate, and we hone our messages appropriately.
Generational buying habits play a large role in this process. What do “Millenials” want? How can we reach them? How can we keep them as returning customers?
In his blog, sales guru Bill Farquharson reports that he moderated a panel of Millennials at GRAPH EXPO 15. He was surprised to hear, over and over again, a single word that represented what these “mysterious” young people were seeking: “Trust.”
Trust is an elusive commodity—and to be sure, it is a commodity. Trust can be earned and lost, just as surely as one can earn or lose one dollar or one hundred thousand dollars.
Just think about your personal life. Can you recall a time when someone you trusted did you wrong? Or you even suspected it? Do you remember how difficult it was to fully put your trust in that person again? Well, the same thing happens in the business world—only worse. We’re apt to give a friend the benefit of the doubt, but if a vendor gives us the shaft, we don’t have the same emotional connection. Plus that type of breach of trust hurts the bottom line, and we have a fiduciary duty to cut ties.
So how do we establish and maintain customers’ trust? Geoffrey James, a contributing editor to Inc.com, gives us nine rules he learned from Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge: The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success, which can be condensed to a few basic principles. Acuff urges you to be yourself and have a real dialogue. Nobody likes to be “sold.” A genuine conversation about a customer’s needs will go much further than a sales pitch. Ask questions, and really pay attention to the answers. Treat your customer as an individual, not as a sales prospect. Most of us prefer to deal with listeners than with talkers. Listening will not only help establish trust, but it will also help you understand and meet your customers’ needs.
Consistency and integrity are also critical components in establishing long-term trust. Never make promises you can’t fulfill; breach of a commitment will kill trust in a heartbeat. There will be times when you just can’t provide the product or service a customers needs; say so, and offer alternative suggestions for products or even other vendors. What a shock and a pleasure it is, as a customer, when a vendor places your needs above his and turns away business! The business owner may lose a few dollars in the short term, but I assure you, that customer will be back when the fit is right and, even more important, will tell their friends about you. And we all know that good word of mouth is priceless.
This data-driven generation was brought up almost from infancy in the digital age, with access to reams of data in a matter of minutes. While we are right to massage our messages to draw them in, we musn’t forget that they respond to the same level of service that keeps all customers coming back. The one-on-one relationship with all customers is critical to establishing and maintaining trust. Listen, learn, understand, perform, follow up, and profit.
(The full article by Geoffrey James can be found at http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-build-customer-trust-9-rules.html)