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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Customer Relationships Defined

Sales are built on relationships. But what does a business relationship look like? How is it different from a personal relationship? Can you mix the two? Should you?

Customers are interested in business relationships because they expect certain results from that relationship. What they want varies depending on the customer, but some common themes emerge.

All people enter into relationships because they expect to get something from them. In personal relationships, we look for love, compassion, support, understanding, companionship, fun, immortality, and strengths we don't have. Business relationships are different. Businesspeople typically want predictable and consistent performance, outcomes, and support that helps them succeed in their careers. They usually want to work with people who make their work easier. They often have their own customers to satisfy. They may want low-risk solutions, they may want to keep a low profile, or they may want innovation. But you can see the clear distinctions between personal and business relationships. When you confuse a business relationship with a personal relationship, you can end up losing the business relationship.

During a discussion in one of my sales programs, one executive related how he and his company had a strong relationship with one of their largest customers. They had such a strong relationship that when the sales executive went to the customer's town, they went out to dinner together and he stayed at the customer's home. It had been this way for a long time. But all of a sudden, he got a call from the customer saying he was switching his business to a competitor. You can imagine how shocked and chagrined the executive was.

He acknowledged that he had mistaken the personal relationship for a business one, and in the process ended up not being aware that a competitor had even approached the customer. The customer, quite naturally, also saw the relationship as a personal one. He didn't place a great deal of value on it from a business point of view, which actually was consistent with what he saw from the supplier.


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