Studies at Michigan State University show there is a happiness boost that occurs when couples marry. This boost lasts about two years, after which people revert to their former levels of happiness or unhappiness.
What do Marriage, Families, Sales and Account Management Have in Common?
Infatuation and passion have an even shorter lifespan, and must evolve into companionate love, composed of deep affection, connection and liking according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.
In her recent book happily married couples average five positive verbal and emotional expressions towards one another for every negative expression. For a very unhappy couple this ratio is less than one to one.
This got me thinking about relationships in general, and in particular with our work colleagues and customers.
Ken Blanchard, in his book ‘The One Minute Manager’ talks about the importance of the one minute praising. He suggests you praise people for what they do right immediately and very specifically. Include in the praising message how good you feel about what they did and how it helps you, the organisation or the family. Pause a moment to let then ‘feel’ how good it is, encourage them to do the same and provide positive support for their role in the organisation or family.
Blanchard goes on to also introduce the concept of the one minute reprimand. Once again, be specific and deliver it immediately following up with a reminder of their value to you and the organisation or family. The key to the reprimand is realising when it is over.
What does this have to do with sales or account management?
In sales I find it easy to be positive when chasing a new opportunity. I can give out positive verbal expressions regularly and overlook bad customer behaviour just to win a deal. When overdone this behaviour is seen by customers as sleazy sales behaviour often characterised by images of used car sales people or real estate agents.
This is dangerous behaviour if you are trying to win long term business. Just like a marriage, you can become infatuated with winning a new customer and miss the signals which may lead to trouble.
The pain of losing a long term customer, a spouse or relationship in a family can all be linked to similar behaviour patterns. Sonja’s research tells us we need to be catching our customers doing things right;
“Emily, I really appreciated the quick payment on the account. It has helped us keep our contractors happy and deliver a better service. Working with people like you is a real pleasure.”
“George, having the samples arrive a day earlier allowed us to get the tests slotted into this week’s batch rather than next week. It made me feel much more comfortable knowing the results before commencing on the next phase.”
Catching people doing the right thing is simple. The hard thing is taking the time to say something about it. As we get comfortable in the relationship we have with our customers it is easier to look for things going wrong and criticise. Before you know it the ratio of positive to negative expressions drops to less than one and you get that phone call saying “We have decided to change suppliers”.
Today’s question and Actions
Examine your most important customer relationships and ask yourself “Am I happy with the relationship, or is it creating stress?”. Here are three things you can do to help bring the relationship with the account back into sync.
- Look for things your customer is doing well and start praising the individuals who are doing it. Don’t make things up and put on a sleazy salespersons coat. Make it a genuine praising in the way Blanchard puts it.
- Keep the negative stuff out of your everyday conversation. It is easy to criticise, however, in an important relationship, going over old ground can be devastating. If something needs to be addressed do so immediately and move on.
- Take time to enjoy the relationship you have with your customer. This does not mean you have to be friends, just do things you enjoy together once in awhile.
You will be astounded at how many new opportunities will come your way when you have a customer who is ‘in love’ with you. Of course you will be enjoying do things for them just as much.