Using CRM to Create a Real Relationship

The acronym CRM has come to mean different things to different people.  It is typically considered a business strategy that allows companies to gain insights and understanding with their customers so that they can provide the products and services that customers want, upsell and cross-sell more effectively, win new business, leverage customer data to enhance relationships and insulate existing customers against competitive erosion.

Most CRM strategies and solutions adequately store and track key information such as contact information, sales and service logs, purchasing history, along with customer communication records, etc.  All in the name of Customer Relationship Management.  How do we define the word relationship?  Just because I might track your purchasing history, communication interactions and so on, doesn’t mean we have a relationship.  From my experience, a relationship is defined by our understanding of the customer and what matters most to them.  Once we have a thorough understanding of our customer, their values and their stresses, then we can build a real relationship and our CRM solution is the enabler that helps us leverage that information.

Steven Covey sets out the ultimate strategy for any CRM solution.  “Seek first to understand, then seek to be understood.”  Seeking to understand means before we can recommend a solution to our customer we need an in-depth understanding of them.  Purchasing history and communication records are important but it’s the answer to some well thought-out questions that will really give you the insights necessary to influence your customer.

The answers to these questions may come from many different sources such as personal assistants, receptionists, suppliers, newspapers, trade publications and of course, the customer themselves.  Learn all you can about your customer personally and professionally and you will be capturing the right kind of information to build a true relationship.  Now don’t try to capture all this information on the first visit, but over time you should have an understanding of the following.

  1. Education Background – Where did they go to high school? Where did they go to college? What year did they graduate? What honors did they receive? What sports did they participate in? What extracurricular activities were they involved with? Were they in the Military? Do they have plans for continuing education?
  2. Family Information – What is their spouse’s name and occupation? What is their education? What are their spouse’s interests and hobbies? Do they have children? If so, how many? (This is why they are working in the first place, it goes to the customer’s motivation)  What sports or activities are their children involved with?
  3. Business Insights – What was the last company they worked for? How long? Why did they leave? What professional or trade designations do they have? What are their biggest accomplishments? How is their relationship with others in the company? What are their short-term business objectives? What are their long-term business objectives? What are their greatest concerns at this time? (Personally and professionally) Are they a long-term thinker and planner or are they reactionary?
  4. Special Interests – What clubs, associations or service clubs do they belong to? (Rotary, etc.) Are they politically active? What’s important to them? Are they active in their community? What is their faith/religion? What are sensitive issues for the customer?
  5. Lifestyle – How is their current health? Are they heavy drinkers/smokers? Are they offended by others drinking or smoking? What are their favorite places for breakfast, lunch or dinner? What are their hobbies and recreational interests? Where do they like to vacation? What professional sports do they follow? Who is their favorite team? What kind of car do they drive? What is their proudest achievement? What are their long-term objectives?
  6. Your Relationship – Are there any moral or ethical issues that must be considered when working with this customer? Is the customer obligated to work with you, your company or your competition? If so, what are the obligations? Will the proposal or solution you present require your customer to develop new habits or deviate from existing cultures or processes? Are they concerned about the opinions of their peers? Are they ethical? Are they self-absorbed or concerned about the welfare of their team and company? What are management’s priorities?

Starting to get the picture?  The bottom line is if you really want to build a relationship of trust with your customer, you are going to need a lot more information than the typical CRM strategies require. Over time, find out as much as you can in these categories and you will have greater insights to attract new customers and insulate your existing ones, than any of your competition.

© 2014 Copyright Michael Vickers


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