The importance of building relationships

Nancy Anderson
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Unless what you're selling is a commodity, like electricity or soybeans, you have more than one way to compete: You can compete on price. You can compete on quality. You can compete on service. Or you can compete on your relationships.

That last way is probably the best way to build a strong, enthusiastic, and profitable customer base.

One reason is because by cultivating a true relationship with a customer, you make it less likely for that customer to look elsewhere, even when things go wrong, as they inevitably will. By working with the customer, and not just selling stuff to him or her, you build loyalty.
You also build a strong marketing force. Of all the ways people learn about products and services, the most effective is word of mouth. A trusted friend's recommendation is more valuable than any advertising you could buy, and valued customers are often eager to recommend those businesses that value them.
Developing such relationships involves elements of all the other ways you compete, however. Your prices need not be the lowest around, but they should be reasonable after factoring in the extra value you bring to the table. That extra value often takes the form of better service - being there for a customer who needs you outside normal hours, for instance, or taking extra time to solve problems that may not be directly related to your work but can affect it. And, of course, if after all is said and done, your products and services are of poor quality, all the relationship-building in the world will not keep your customers coming back.

By enaging all the elements of successful selling, including the human element, relationship-building can make you stronger as a salesperson -- and your business' bottom line healthier, not to mention your own.

A job on could become the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

By: Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is an award-winning writer and editor who has spent most of his career in public relations and corporate communications. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia CityPaper, PGN, and a number of Web sites. Philly-area residents may also recognize him as "MarketStEl" of discussion-board fame. He has been a part of the great reserve army of freelance writers since January 2009 and is actively seeking opportunities wherever they may lie.


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