The old stereotypes of 3-martini lunches and WKRP’s sleazy salesman Herb Tarlek have given way to the science of customer relationship management (CRM). Perform a Google search and nearly 21 million results pop up to direct the businessperson to books, articles, workshops, presentations, consultants, and software packages. If you’re not sure how to manage your customer base, then be assured plenty of resources exist to help you.

Simply codifying CRM for your business won’t go very far. Not only do you have to make sure you and your staff are trained in effective CRM techniques, but that those techniques are actually used. That requires buy-in from employees and a way to measure results. If you don’t know which metrics are valid, then you can’t measure the efficacy of your CRM effort.

Regardless of which expert’s method you follow or which guru’s advice you heed or what data metrics you measure, one finds that CRM is as much an art as it is a science. Like all art, it begins as a craft that most people can master given sufficient instruction. Before embarking upon a CRM program, remember that effective CRM rests upon personal relationships. If the personal relationship is missing or fails for whatever reason, don’t expect a repeat sale.

Building those relationships boils down to those two lessons learned in kindergarten:

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Mind your manners.

But all that schmoozing doesn’t make a profit, you complain.

Salesmanship is an art that relies upon a process which can be taught and mastered. The easy part of building the customer relationship is building the relationship. The hard part is turning that relationship into a transaction.

The key to sales conversion is generosity. Be generous with your time and interest. In other words, take the time to make the customer’s life a little easier, to take a personal interest in his or her interests and/or life. Build rapport. Share your knowledge. Offer assistance. Be helpful. This goes beyond the usual “add value” admonition because in this you give something of yourself. The customer grows to like you and trust you.

A solid relationship will withstand the “ask” when it finally comes, as it must to convert to the transaction. The “ask” won’t work if you don’t believe in your service or product; however, a relationship built upon generosity can yield tremendous returns. It can be as simple as asking, “How can I be of service to you?” It’s soft and generous. The response will help you determine whether the opportunity for a sale is ripe. In short, you offered a lead; you didn’t push.

Customer relationship management begins as a process and falls back upon a process, but it’s up to you to build in the flexibility and personal touch that evolves the craft of that process into the art of sales. To get a head start on your CRM process, contact the Heggen Group