You may think you're in the business of selling automotive parts, home remodeling or repairs, printing services, financial consulting, tutoring or signs, but you're not. Even if your products are sold only to other businesses, those businesses don't make the buying decision--a person does. You're in the people business, and learning to make people feel important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of time.

I frequently find great examples of strong client relationships while reading a feature in a local area newspaper where readers are invited to review their favorite nonfranchise restaurants. The articles are wonderful publicity for the restaurants. One of the key elements I see repeated over and over again is that patrons know the names of the owners, hosts and servers. And many of the restaurant workers know something about these customers as well. They know if their guests prefer coffee or tea with breakfast; they may even remember their favorite meal, asking if they want "the usual."

Put yourself in the seats of those guests for a moment. How would it make you feel to have your particular favorites automatically placed before you without having to explain your preferences? It would make you feel at home--or as if you're at the home of a good friend, someone who knows you well and wants you to have what you want. Just like your friends and family, these business owners and employees want you to be happy. This type of relationship is ideal when it comes to serving your clients' needs, and it can be created no matter what your product or service is.

Maybe you sell tires, not breakfast. Even so, you should introduce yourself to each client and tell them your name. Use your clients' names in conversation during the sales process. Inquire about the use of the vehicle. Does the client have young children or a teenage driver? If so, safety will be an important issue to discuss with them. Do they have a cabin in the woods where some off-road driving is involved? Or do they travel for business and need "highway" tires? All these answers will help you lead your customers to the best choices for them. And keeping a record of the answers will help you build long-term relationships.

You also need to make sure every client receives your best care during--and after--the sales process. During the initial sale, get clients talking and take good notes. Then enter any potentially important information gleaned from the conversation into your client database. My colleague, Harvey Mackay, has a long list of details he requires his salespeople to gather about clients over a certain time period. This includes not just information required to help them conduct business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether they're married, their children's names, and whether they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and start conversations with clients after the initial sale.

People like to do business with people who are like them, who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale and who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them arises. That type of treatment makes them feel important, and they come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart. And it's in your best interest to offer that type of treatment and cultivate relationships that customers can count on.