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21 Tips for Dealing with Customers

1. Know your customer’s industry, mission, strategy, personnel, values and modus operandi.

2. Become the acknowledged expert for your products and services, and those of your competitor. Know how your customer will—or does—use them.

3. Focus not only on the needs of your direct customer but also on their customer, your indirect customer.

4. Earn trust and substantiate the truth of your claims through your performance and that of your products and services. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.

5. Know your limits and those of your company and your products and services.

6. Develop your understanding and knowledge of general business management.

7. Expand your horizons of knowledge and experience beyond business by reading, continuing education and/or seeking a mentor.

8. Realize that your customers may know as much as you do about your product. Their knowledge is likely to increase as they face internal demands for improved margins coupled with improved product performance.

9. Make it your business to learn and understand your customers’ mission statements and key strategies. Be sure the products, services and solutions you offer fit their mission, strategies and needs.

10. Recognize that their time—and yours—is valuable and limited, as are the resources of both your companies. Respect this reality and show it by your actions.

11. Raise their expectations by your performance and continue to meet them. If their expectations already exceed your performance, you must rise to their level or likely lose them as customers.

12. Always emphasize the value of your products and services. This will often preclude or minimize discussions of price considerations.

13. Display trust and candor in your dealings with customers. This is the best way to earn it in return.

14. Don’t get locked into the here and now. Learn to focus on longer term relationships and solutions that are in step with your customer’s growth plans.

15. Thank your customers for their purchases and for their continued patronage. This is most effective through the written word.

16. Seek information and feedback from your customers early, and respond promptly.

17. Use all forms of communication to maintain contact with your customers.

18. Continually reinforce your customer’s decision to deal with you by constant reinforcement of the value proposition you represent. Do this through your performance and behavior.

19. Continually make your customers aware of the full range of products and services you offer. Broaden their perspective and perception.

20. Maintain, grow and protect your communications and relationships with the decision-makers.

21. It is OK to lose an order or a job, but it is never OK to lose a customer. Think and act for the long haul.

L. Douglas Mault is president of Executive Advisory Institute, Portland, Ore. The Web site is; he can be reached at (888) 428.3331.

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