The Eight Pillars of Selling and Relationship Management

I would like to share with you what I consider the eight pillars of selling and customer relationship management. It is upon these pillars that selling and effective customer relationship management stand.

The first is customer prospecting. This is where selling and relationship management start. Prospecting is the process of identifying people who are likely to benefit from your products and services. You need to first identify them, locate where they are, and keep track of them, before you begin to attract them. Prospecting is the soul of selling, and networking is the synonym of prospecting.

The next pillar is interactive management. This includes all the actions designed to transform prospects into actual customers. For networkers, it is how you convert the prospects you have tracked and located into resource persons. How do I convert a bank chief executive I met on a 45 minute flight to Abuja from being just an acquaintance into a resource person that I can tap into for the rest of my life?

The third pillar of selling and relationship management is relations with customers. This is the extent to which you and your company initiate, develop, maintain and improve on relationships. Ok, so you have tracked them, located them and you have converted them into actual customers. The third pillar will make you ask, “What extent do I want to take this relationship?” Will it just end with the customer opening an account with you? Will it just end in exchanging call cards? How do you make the hug warmer and the bond deeper? In this pillar, you are constantly asking, ‘What are the things that I’m meant to do to maintain and improve on these relationships?’

The fourth pillar is understanding customer expectations. This is an offshoot of the third pillar. My ability to understand the present and future expectations, needs and aspirations of a customer is a function of intimacy. So, do you have the skills to deepen a relationship with a customer to the extent that he begins to tell you private matters, including his dreams and aspirations for his business, family or careers?

You see how this progresses from prospecting to becoming a client, then taking you from just being a client to creating a relationship and making the bond deeper and the hug warmer. I can now easily share things with you that I won’t share with that man whose relationship with me is at the level of “that guy that works in the bank with me”, “that guy that works in that company with me”, “that guy that attends the same church with me.” But my relationship with you has deepened, so that I can tell you “my wife wants to buy a car and I don’t have the funds at the moment,” and you would say, “Don’t you worry. I have a product that is designed towards meeting the needs of women!”

The fifth pillar is empowerment. Empowerment is the extent to which you have so empowered yourself with the right attitude, skill, knowledge, constant demonstration of excellence and competence to the point that your friends bosses and your customers begin to defer to you. The customers say, “I have one billion naira and I don’t know what to do with it,” and you begin to exercise your power as a subject matter expert to tell him, ‘do this’ and he does it. You say, ‘go that way’ and he goes. You have so improved yourself that the man begins to see you as an expert on the subject and he consults you.

The moment you begin to deepen relationships, you start to show your value to the people you encounter such that they do not drop the call when you call. They always want to see you. Each time they hear you speak, there is a flow of wisdom, ideas and strategy that will transform their lives and businesses.

I always ask this question, ‘Each time you meet people or enter a place to make a presentation, what do they say when you’re leaving that place? Do they say, “That was an excellent presentation!’’ Or, ‘That man knows his onions. I wish he were my son.’’ Or, ‘’I wish he were working with me.” On the other hand, do you walk away from that place and they turn their heads and say, “So, this one too is a banker?” Or, “So, that one too is a salesperson; that one too is a consultant? God have mercy on us in this country!”’ What do people say after an encounter with you?

The sixth pillar is personalization. This is the extent to which you ‘’make believe.’’ Now, I need you to pay attention so you would understand me clearly. This is more about perception than reality. Personalization is the extent to which you make a customer, client or any person you are in constant contact with to believe that all you dream and think about is him/her. You make the person believe he is the only reason you exist in that organization. You make them feel very important. You are always available when they need you. You customize text messages and emails for them, to give an example.

All these six pillars are designed to create loyalty, which is the seventh pillar. Loyalty is simply staying with someone in good and bad times. Encarta Dictionary defines it as “devotion, duty, or attachment to somebody or something.” This pillar holds all the other pillars together; it is the cross-pillar – to use the language of architects. This is why you are building the other pillars so that people become committed and attached to you.

The eighth pillar is advocacy. However, beyond loyalty is advocacy. Advocacy is the extent to which you have deepened the relationship, empowered yourself, understood the customer’s expectation and personalized the relationship to the point where the man is not only loyal to you but is now your unpaid promoter. He now advertises you. He goes to his friends and says, “Pull your account from this bank and come to this bank.” He tells his people, “This man’s just got to handle your printing jobs!”

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