Relationships are built not bought
If you are looking to sell a product or service you need to start by finding someone who actually wants to buy what you are selling. I can't think of any scenario where a business can thrive without those important people that we refer to as ‘customers'. Now there are different types of sales cycle, depending on the nature of the business which you are in, and this will determine the level of relationship that you need to build with your customers before they will buy. But, generally speaking, they at least need to trust you a little bit.
In terms of the first sale, this usually comes down to the value and the importance of the thing that they are committing to buying. If, for example, if it is a bunch of flowers to send to a work colleague who is unwell – you probably just need to be the nearest shop or to rank fairly well in a Google search. There would not necessarily need to be a great deal of trust generated. (No disrespect to any super-talented florists reading this). But let’s suppose you sell laptops – then you would need to demonstrate a bit more competence, not to mention some comprehension of your customer's needs and budget.
To find your prospects in the first place, you could simply buy a list, buy a position in a search engine or buy a good spot on the High Street. But to create sales and build a level of confidence which would turn an initial interest or single sale into a regular customer will take a little more thought and effort…
Trust is the foundation of any relationship
So you have got the first sale under your belt and safely met your customer's delivery expectations. For some companies the journey ends there as that is the only time your customer will ever need that particular service. But this is very rare. And even if you do sell a ‘once in a lifetime' product there is still huge value in building an ongoing relationship – if for no other reason than that your customer might tell someone else how great you are.
For most businesses, however, the key to success and future growth lies in developing residual or recurring incomes from a loyal and contented client-base. And that means you need to build and develop a relationship with them. The best way to do this is by finding a way to keep in touch, either by continually adding value (between sales), providing great support (alongside each sale), or by learning your customers’ buying-cycles and reminding them when it is time to buy. This can be done in person, by phone, through social media, by email or by direct mail. The key thing to remember, especially when nurturing an existing customer relationship, is that you are aiming to build trust and confidence through adding value. And the best way to do this is to dig deep into gaining an understanding of who your customer is and what they actually want from you.
Teach them about it, engage them with its value and demonstrate (through your willingness to share your expertise) that you are the clear and undisputed choice of who should deliver it to them…