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BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS: NO MORE BOO’ING UP! FOCUS ON DEVELOPING LONG TERM RELATIONSHIPS

Customers. We all need them. If we are going to have successful businesses we need cold, hard-cash paying customers. Regardless of the type of business, making the sale can be tough. When you really think about it, the whole process can seem like an awkward first date.

Step One, Let the Courting Begin: You get them through the door (or web portal for all of you virtualpreneurs). First introductions are made. You fumble past “hello”–and this isn’t Jerry McGuire, so you don’t have anyone yet!

Step Two, The Moves: A bit of small talk and you’re ready. You ask a few personal questions, trying to decipher exactly what it is that your “date” wants. You begin to work your magic. You pitch, hope and pray that they love you–or are at least desperate enough to buy what you’re selling.

Step Three, Score!: Finally, you come to the end and score! They bought your lines–I mean you gave a very well thought out sales pitch and they are ready to buy. Contracts are signed, checks written and registers are-a-cha-chinging. You… are… all… good— or are you?

For too many business owners this is enough. Like the poor lonely soul, Friday after Friday, they are just trying to get to the end of the date and hope that they’ll score that one lucky kiss. My question is, “Why?” Why aren’t more of us trying to “go steady”, instead? And I’m not just talking about “booing up” for the winter season…

Sure, we all want to grow our customer base. The more the merrier. The problem, with having that as our main priority, is the lack of depth that we create with our current customers. Think about that person you know with hundredes of Facebook friends–at best they know a few hundred, kinda. Relationships all follow a certain pattern that is based on familiarity and trust. So–how familiar are you with your customers and how much do they trust you?

Let’s go back to our dating analogy. How much do you share on the first date–or when you meet anyone for that matter? Usually, not a whole lot. That’s what dating is all about. You spend time showing genuine interest in getting to know the other person and vice versa. It’s during the second, third and fourth dates that we begin to open up. The relationship matures and that’s when the real magic begins. You know their likes and dislikes, and they seem to know your every thought. Pretty soon, you begin to picture a long happy future with them. Voila! You are in a committed relationship.

The same principles you apply to building relationships in dating are applicable in developing relationships with your customers…er, uh minus the kissing and stale movie popcorn, of course.  Just like the new love of your life is looking for tokens of your affections, your customers want to know that they matter to you. How soon do you follow up after the initial sale– a day, a month…never? If your answer is more than a week or so, you better believe that in the customer’s mind your intentions are sketchy, at best. If you answered never, you are definitely not relationship material as far as the customer is concerned. So why should they tell their friends about you? Meeting the parents is definitely out of the question. After all, what would mom say if she knew you had treated her baby that way?

In the dating world, a good first date qualifies for a follow-up call and hopefully another date. In the world of business, closing the sale certainly qualifies as good. So why wouldn’t you follow up with a “thank you” call, email or post card even? The same way a first date matures into a budding relationship that introduces you to a whole new world of opportunities, so can your customers. If you show them your adoration, they will fall in love with you. They will want to tell the world about you… and you won’t even have to eat the stale movie theater popcorn.

How do you develop and maintain your customer relationships? Share your comments with the Mind Your Black Business community.

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Louiseza Sanderson

Louiseza Sanderson

Louiseza Sanderson is a business consultant, writer and the founder of www.MindYourBlackBusiness.com. She is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. It was during her time in the military that she learned the value of hard work, community and serving the needs of others. Following her military service she earned a bachelor's degree in business and an MBA in business communications.

She began consulting with the explicit goal of providing affordable business consultation and guidance to those who might not otherwise have access. "I started consulting by 'inherent accident'. I've spent my whole life gathering information, in hopes that it would benefit someone," says Sanderson. When it comes to working with her clients, she believes that the key is to find the human factor. By doing so, she helps her clients to find the best solution for their business, by first figuring out what is best for the person. Her hope is to help such entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profits who share her vision of giving back-- be it through job creation, innovation or a cause.

As a consultant and business owner herself, Sanderson came to realize that while there are many resources for small business owners, there were very few that provided a platform for micro and small Black owned businesses, as well as the information germane to them. These are the mom and pops, solo-preneurs and other businesses and organizations that are really the heart and soul of the local (Black) community. She shares, "The vision of Mind Your Black Business is the culmination of what I am most passionate about and what I do best--helping others to achieve their dreams and helping small businesses grow."

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