To build up a customer base takes time and dedication and most importantly a PERSONAL touch. Business and sales are not impersonal they are quite the opposite. Your relationship with a customer is only as good as your last interaction. Just one negative experience may be all it takes to alienate a client and send them running for a competitor. Always be courteous and try to give each interaction a personal touch. Sending a thank you e-mail after a completed deal or transaction will leave the customer with a positive impression of your company.
Most companies think of themselves as customer-focused. Or at least they want to. But what does it really mean to be customer-focused? To many, it means asking customers what they want in a product or service. They’ve heard reports of organizations developing products in a vacuum and they strive to be sure their firm doesn’t make the same mistake. These organizations seek out current and prospective customers and ask them what they need. ‘What plants would you like in a new landscape?’ ‘What would you like your back patio to look like?’ What kind of tree do you want?
With the best of intentions, most landscape managers and designers ask these questions and open-mindedly listen to the responses. This approach is fundamentally flawed for two reasons. First, customers don’t always know what they want. They don’t spend much time thinking about what they want or need. There may be some colors they wish their landscape had. Some of these things may be easy for some to articulate, while others may take more thought and reflection before they can clearly articulate them. When was the last time you thought about how commonly used items (microwave, washing machine, lawn mower, etc.) could be improved?
Customers rarely know our products as well as we do. This limits their thinking, and therefore their ideas. Most importantly, the customer makes a number of assumptions when they articulate what their needs are.
Ask qualifying questions. When a client states a need, repeat it back to her and qualify it with what you think she wants. By breaking down a single need into multiple steps, you can further understand the scope of what she is trying to say.
Offer different solutions that may serve the client’s needs better. The client may think he wants plant/service “X,” but try to delve into whether that is really going to solve his current need. If you have a better plant/service that will help him over the long term, bring this up. It shows you are listening to him and thinking about how you can better serve him. Avoid dismissing a need or a statement. A client may have what appears to you to be a fanciful need that cannot be fulfilled. In his/her mind however, it may be a real and important need. Find a way to incorporate what he/she wants with what you can provide.
Make the decision together. By involving the client in every step, you make him a part of the decision instead of just giving him a one-size-fits-all approach. Ask him if he agrees several times, ask if he has any ideas that will make it better and then repeat back what you hear to confirm it with him. Treating each and every client individually, for their wants, needs, expectations will help build and keep your client base. This season ahead, may we all have “Godspeed” = Used to wish someone success or good fortune, as on a journey.”
Mike Dues | Dues Nursery