Celebrate Your Customers Instead of saying 'thank you,' show customers some real appreciation by giving them your time.

By Mark Stevens

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do you ever give your customers a standing ovation? I mean a real flag waving hoopla?

Do you make a fuss over them? Do you go over the top in demonstrating that you see them as the royalty of your business?

Or do you think it's good enough just to have your invoices printed with 'Thank You' at the bottom? Maybe you send a 'Merry Christmas' email dutifully every year because the business-as usual playbook says so.

If you have fallen into this trap reverse your engines.

  • Mediocre salespeople think it's all about them. And that perfunctory thank you is not enough.
  • Great salespeople know that it is critical to start with the customer, take a step back to determine what will delight them to make the sale, and then fast forward again to shower the customer with love.

At this point, you may be confusing the idea of celebrating your customers with fawning over them. But I have something else in mind.

Something like actually paying attention to them: caring, thinking, dreaming and wondering enough about what they say and what they are asking, to challenge them. To developing a solution to their needs based on what your analysis tells you is even more valuable to them, instead of just giving them not what they ask for; even if it flies in the face of what they started off thinking they wanted.

You don't serve your customers by dutifully taking orders. That's old school salesmanship and a sure fire way to do the opposite of celebrating your customers. Yes, you may make them happy for the moment but--and this is important--it's at the expense of truly identifying what's in their best interests. You're robbed of the opportunity to influence a change from what they think they want to what it is you discover they really need.

As a CEO and an adviser, I find that my and my firm's best and most productive business relationships are born when a client enters the room thinking they know what they want, and using experience, insight and intuition, we prompt them to change their mind.

The goal is never to be contrarian for its own sake, but to celebrate your client in such a substantive way that you care enough to:

  1. Invest in the development of a wiser solution than what the knee jerk response would be.
  2. Take the risk of displeasing the client at the outset because you don't agree with them.
  3. Engage in something far more powerful than a vendor relationship by transitioning to a collaborator. The fact is, the process of collaboration not only leads to an unusually close affiliation but opens doors of opportunity that are richer and more sustainable than those driven expressly by the desire to make a sale.

Celebrate the customer in the true sense of the word and the economics will take care of itself.

Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a management and marketing firm based in New York, and the author of Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman. He's a regular media commentator on business matters including marketing, management and sales. He's also the author of the marketing blog, Unconventional Thinking.

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