Relationship Selling in Retail


RELATIONSHIP SELLING

Relationship selling can be defined as a selling process which focuses on long term satisfaction and repeat business maintenance for both parties (seller and buyer).

This selling philosophy is in total contrast with one shot sales blitz and other fast-buck selling tactics.

On-going selling processes are highly dependent upon the salesperson’s knowledge of the customers, their life-styles, their buying practices and the history of their purchases.

Success of relationship selling is contingent upon the ability of the salesperson in nurturing and strengthening the bond between himself and the customer.

Therefore, it becomes vital to recognize from the outset the necessity of managing the relationship with the customers.

Hotels with thousands of customer details in their databases can communicate a returning customer’s preferences to the front desk staff to make sure that the doorperson can greet him/her by name upon arrival, prepare a room to his/her liking and turn the whole experience into a very enjoyable if not an exhilarating one.

When you call for reservations at some restaurants, do not be surprised if they ask you if you would like to have the same menu or the same table as you had during your last visit a few months ago!

Among the buzz-words are “close-to-customer” and “high-touch”.

These words mean that in today’s and tomorrow’s fragmented markets, ultimate forms of personalized customer contact is the strategic direction.

What is the secret or is there really a secret? The answer is no.

These establishments like many others joining the practice, have understood what their function is and they are utilizing the tools to deliver what they have to do in a competitive environment.

They practice relationship selling through meticulous collection of information regarding customer preferences and commitment to use that information.

For companies whose existence and/or prosperity depend on repeat business, acquiring-building-maintaining the relationship with the customer is critical.

How do we develop a relationship with the customer? It has many parallels to developing friendships.

From the first step customer takes into your store, you have the foundation of building the relationship.

There is obviously a common interest in terms of the merchandise you have in the store.

That is the ideal starting point to be used as a base for a long term association if you handle the customer properly according to the fundamentals of sales skills which were discussed previously.

This initial contact has to be utilized to get as much information about the customer as possible.

It is the information you collect about the customer which will give you the leads for further conversations and contacts.

This is why advance planning of customer interfaces is so important. Information gathering should then become a regular part of your selling skill set.

Having collected the information, it is the utilization of it which makes the difference and will create a loyal following for your services and/or products.

Remembering the important days in their lives, sending relevant articles about their hobbies, coming up with suggestions to improve their satisfaction out of the merchandise/service they bought from you long ago…

These are just a few examples for gaining their friendship and patronage for life!

The purpose of relationship selling is more sales, more referrals and repeat customers through knowing the customers as humans-not just as bodies who buy merchandise at your store.

RELATIONSHIP SELLING IS A WIN-WIN SITUATION

The end result of relationship selling is a satisfied customer on one hand and a successful salesperson on the other. They have reached the best outcome.

The best return on investment (ROI) for both parties.

Customer ROI: The customer receives the product s/he needs/wants.

The customer interacts with a salesperson who is honest and knowledgeable, who is listening and interested in the customer’s needs.

The customer leaves the store emotionally, psychologically and financially satisfied.

Salesperson ROI: Apart from having made the sale, salesperson reaps the rewards of a satisfied customer which results in repeat and referral sales and profits.

It is helpful to internalize the following concepts and procedures for maximum effectiveness in relationship selling:

  • Establish routines that assure the right kind of customer contacts. These should be well practiced and must be specific to the situation, responsive to the issue at hand and sensitive to the customer needs. Inquiries and complaints must be handled with a personal touch in a disciplined and/or controlled manner.
  • It is important to be patient throughout the process of relationship building. It takes time and thought to give special attention conducive to nurturing relationships.
  • Develop your own tools and strategy with which you are effective and comfortable and work with them religiously-consistently.
  • Regard the absence of customer complaints as an indication of low level contact with the customer.
  • Try to stay up-to-date with your customers’ future intentions to be able to anticipate, plan and respond.

With the philosophy of relationship selling in mind, analyze the high pressure selling situations and develop your own critique for the conventional wisdom of selling.

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