The key to building a business relationship

Maxim # 9
Know your customer

maxim_9It is easy to know your customer professionally; it’s much harder to know them personally. They may have no desire to develop a personal relationship. However, engineering someone to change their behavior usually requires getting them to venture outside their comfort zone. They will only want to do this if they are motivated in some way and if they trust you. To understand what motivates them we need to know what their personal, not just business, interests include. And to get someone to trust you requires building a relationship, which means you must get to know them and genuinely share some interests.

To get to know someone on a personal level takes a certain amount of time and tact. Until there is some level of trust, customers will not want to share their personal side with you. You can pick up clues about their interests however by being observant. Often people put on display things that are important to them (degrees, pictures, toys, etc). The surest way to win people over is to be genuinely interested in the things that interest them, whether that is work, sports, community or family. Find some common passions and actually care what they think about the topic.

Here are some of the things you might want to know about someone with whom you are trying to build a relationship:

  • Are they married? Do they have kids? 
  • Where did they go to school? 
  • What are their hobbies? Sports? Do they collect anything? 
  • Any community or environmental interests? 

These are pretty basic but it is surprising how often you don’t know these things, even about people you consider to be friends. Until you know at least these things about your customer, you don’t really know them. How well do you know your customers? What does your organization do to facilitate client and customer relationships?