Trust. I suspect it is the most precious commodity in business. The goal has to be earning every customer’s trust and then keeping it.
I think the fact that we have lots of customers who have been with us a very long time is a good sign in that regard.
If I were advising a friend just starting a sales-oriented business, here is what I would tell him or her: When on the front end of a relationship, don’t go in just trying to sell some equipment. You’re not offering any real value in the relationship if the customer just tells you what he thinks he needs and you sell it to him.
I would encourage them to make their broader focus helping customers assess their business costs and manage those costs down. That’s certainly the approach we take with our customers.
Trust also comes from being honest and transparent about how you make your money. In our business model, we lose a little bit of money on every piece of equipment we sell so we can make a profit in the long run through servicing the account.
We lay those cards on the table up front with our prospective customers. I purpose to get rid of all the smoke and mirrors and our customers really appreciate it—at least the kinds of customers that we want to be in relationship with do.
I think the best approach is to view the customer as a partner for life.