By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. You could be offering the best product or service on the market, but if you don’t treat your customers properly before, during, and after a sale, you will never be able to build a mutually-beneficial partnership that keeps them coming back. Undoubtedly, loyal customers are your most valuable business asset.


So, how do you manage customer relationships to ensure long-term satisfaction and, in turn, better business results? Here are four tips:


Be genuine. 

It’s important to be yourself, not just who the customer wants you to be. If you’re not authentic and true to your personal beliefs as well as your organization’s values, you will struggle to build a lasting relationship. Sure, you might win some business, but you will never fulfill your customer’s needs unless you are honest with them.


Set proper expectations.

We all want to please our customers, and because of that, we are sometimes afraid to say “no.” But if you oversell your capabilities, you will only disappoint them in the long run. Sales representatives should set realistic expectations from the onset of the relationship to drive customer appreciation for the services you can actually offer them. It may be awkward to tell a customer, “No, I can’t do that, but I can do this, and this, and this,” but it is better to be bold, open, and honest than to promise something that you can’t deliver.


Understand your customer. 

This should go without saying, but in the business of sales, it may be easy to forget. You must make it a top priority to understand your customers’ business goals; otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to propose the right solution for them. Take a moment to ask yourself what the customer is trying to achieve, and revisit this question throughout the course of the relationship. They should always feel as though you have their best interests in mind, and you can only prove that to them by staying up-to-date on their needs. Imagine one of your sales representatives telling a new customer that they should replace their entire IT infrastructure, just after that customer has reported a loss in their quarterly earnings statement. How can you expect to gain their trust and build loyalty if you act as if you don’t care about their individual needs? Take the time to do your research — read their recent press coverage, delve into their annual report — and I guarantee that your relationship will grow strong.


Get over yourself. 

In the ever-changing IT industry, we are all fascinated by our own products and services. We boast the latest and greatest in technology and being one step ahead of everyone else. We aim to convince our customers that we have the perfect solution for them, but we’re actually offering a tool — not a product — that enables them to improve their business outcomes. Your job is to help customers achieve their goals, and if you only have your own goals in mind, you will lose more business than you win.