Todd had a good sales background and was having a successful year until his product went on backorder for six weeks due to a packaging problem. Finally, the problem was corrected, the product was back on the market, and he was anxious to get his customers using it again.

His biggest customer, Ben, owned two franchises, and when Todd asked if he was ready to start using his product again he was surprised by the answer. Ben flat out said he wasn’t interested in Todd’s product anymore and that he had begun using the competition’s product. Todd had worked hard on this account over the past year and he had kept Ben up to date on what was happening with the backorder situation and all the work that Todd had been doing dealing with the backorder. Todd thought maybe he should drop his price in order to get his business back with Ben.

When Todd talked with Ben and suggested a price cut, Ben told him that price wasn’t the problem. Ben was upset because during the backorder situation, Todd had not even inquired about what the backorder was doing to Ben’s business. Instead, every time Todd met and talked with Ben it was always about how Todd had been affected by the backorder. Because Todd focused on his situation he failed to notice how the backorder of his product had caused a major disruption for his customer’s business.

Here’s the real crux: Ben quit doing business with Todd because he didn’t feel valued and didn’t feel that Todd had his best interests in mind. When people don’t feel that there is a connection, they don’t feel valued and that important foundation of trust becomes shattered. It is a difficult challenge to regain that trust with a customer and build the relationship back to a healthy win-win scenario.

A good definition of clout is “the power to influence people or events.” Customer Connect with CLOUT is the ability to influence customers in a sales situation where the customer understands what their life will be like in the future from utilizing your product or service. It is the ability to understand your customer’s needs and help them understand that the best way to satisfy that need is through your offering.

Here are five key areas to help you provide Customer Connect with CLOUT:

  1. Clarity – Truly understand the value of the product or service you provide and how it will impact your customer or customer’s business. Once this is understood, then it becomes easier to help the customer see what is needed for them to become more successful and how to fill that void or need. By selling the experiences and benefits you get to the real reason people buy. The real reasons are more than just specific features or price. The real reasons have an emotional attachment because it is the solution to a problem for your customer.
  2. Learning – This is key in discovering everything you can about your customer and your competition. If your customer has a business, how do they view their business and what do they consider being a successful business? If you customer has a need, what is a satisfactory way of fulfilling that need and then what is an over-the-top way of fulfilling that need? What products or services do your competitors provide and how do they bundle or package these? Also, learn about the skills you need to be successful by taking advantage of training opportunities and reading and listening to books, DVDs and articles on how to connect, influence and sell.
  3. Openness – It’s not just about selling a product or service, but being open to new ideas to help customers solve their problems and fill their needs. Customers may have certain needs today but try and anticipate what those needs may be or how the situation may change one to two years from now? Be open to viewing the customer’s situation as it really is, not just how you perceive it or how you would like it to be.
  4. Understanding – Understand what motivates your customer. What is their vision about a satisfactory result? Great opportunities come from being genuinely interested in your customers. Ask the right questions, the more difficult high-value questions that provide you with key insight about your customers and their needs such as: “What specifically would you consider a great result or solution?” or “Why would that have an impact?” Then sit back and listen. To truly understand it takes a developed listening skill to hear what your customer is trying to tell you. Instead of providing information, you listen and acquire information that will help you connect with your customer and be able to meet their needs.
  5. Trust – This is the foundation to selling and developing strong relationships with customers. To build strong relationships and connect with your customers, you have to believe in your product or service and you have to believe in yourself.  More importantly, your customers need to believe in you and be able to trust you.  The trust comes from following up on what you say you are going to do.  Line up your actions with your intentions and have the impact on your customers that you need for that long-term relationship. This will be the impact that provides the solutions for your customer’s best interest and needs.

Connecting with customers takes hard work. It takes vision, confidence, curiosity, passion and integrity. Remember it’s not all about you but rather what you can do for your customer in satisfying their needs, wants, voids and concerns. When you can satisfy those items, your customers feel valued and connected which goes a long way in developing long-term beneficial relationships. 

Chuck Inman is a leadership and emotional intelligence specialist. He is a keynote speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Crystal Clear Motivation, LLC. His leading edge keynote on “Leadership C.L.O.U.T. - Improving Communication Skills & Strengthening Teams,” is a dynamic program that’s addresses leader’s key challenges in today’s world.  For more information, visit www.ChuckInman.com.