The Allred family vacation this year took us on a Princess ship to the Eastern Caribbean. The hours of endless blue ocean conjured images of Captain Jack Sparrow and the occasional yaw of the ship inspired nightmares of creatures lurking in the briny deep. Who can forget Disney's portrayal of menacing monsters with myriad tentacles encroaching through the portals of a doomed three-master? Tis a frightful and powerful vision.
Intrepid entrepreneurs should channel that thought as they consider their relationship with their customers. You want many tentacles to tie you together for years of profitable interaction. The stereotypical relationship of salesperson to sucker is far too tentative for the needs of a growing business. If your sales force revels in sticking a "mark" with a dog of a product, you have created a business that won't last or one that won't last long where you are. The peddlers of the past are doomed to wander the earth or die like dinosaurs.
Your first interactions with a client must be friendly and may not yield a sale, but a subtle thread of memory should be left to draw them toward you when they need what you are selling. That thread might take the form of a calling card, brochure, gift, website, social media connection, refrigerator magnet or many other reminders. The first sale should be so pleasant that the client doesn't notice the first tentacle wrapping around their waist. That means communication must be honest, pricing fair, delivery timely and follow-up consistent.
You should follow up again when the useful life of your product is about to lapse. If your communication arrives just as the client recognizes the need, then you will succeed in inserting another tentacle under the arm perhaps.
The best thing you can do is offer multiple products and services that the clients feel they can't do without. In the case of an insurance business, you want their property, health, life, disability, boat and motor home all under one "umbrella." You want so many arms embracing your clients that they can't easily break free. Better, they are so happy in your embrace that they don't want to get away.
There is nothing mystical about good customer relationships, as long as they don't depend on the personal charisma of the owner. The symbiosis you seek is found in systems that prompt subordinates to deliver good service, consistently. Let your saga begin today and "Release the Kraken."
-- Russ Allred, MBA, is a business consultant and author with Sunbelt Business Brokers & Advisors. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.