If the thought of grabbing a flight for yet another customer meeting has you feeling lazy, you might want to reconsider opting for that Skype or other virtual call.

You see, even though sitting in your office is a lot easier and less expensive than trekking to the airport and spending the night in a hotel, staying put could end up costing you much more when it comes to customer value.

Benjamin von Seeger, CEO of BVS Consulting and former senior sales executive in the telecommunications industry, knows this all too well. That’s why he wrote The Rival, a new book meant to help anyone who wants to be successful in business realize the importance of building strong customer relationships, one face-to-face meeting at a time.

CMSWire asked von Seeger to give us a taste of the book, and provide our readers with his thoughts around how business professionals can develop stronger customer bonds that will help them come out ahead every time.

Secrets for Stronger Customer Bonds

Build Emotional and Relational Intelligence

The application of emotional intelligence in business was described by psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his book, Emotional Intelligence, published in 1995.

Twenty-one years later, businesses are still trying to understand how tapping into the skills of self-awareness, empathy, motivation, social competencies and self-regulation can help them not only develop great leaders, but deliver customer experiences that get them ahead of the competition.

Von Seeger agrees that emotional intelligence can mean the difference between success and failure in business.

benjamin-von-seeger“Throughout my meetings and travels, I was always asking myself: ‘How did I become so successful? What are the elements that people need in meetings?’”

Then it hit him.

“I realized that success is a combination of book smarts and street smarts,” he said. “But the glue that brings them together is emotional intelligence.”

Just what does emotional intelligence mean to von Seeger?

“I don’t have a definition or a formula,” he said. “You just have to work very hard. You don’t get street smarts by sitting in your office. You get it by talking to executives, and seeing what they do successfully and unsuccessfully.”

He explained his vision of emotional intelligence within the context of the most basic of human emotions.

“I compare it with love,” he said. “Do you have a definition for love? It’s something that happens. You have a rapport with executives. If you are authentic, approachable and articulate, you catch their attention.”

Spend Time with Customers

A component of emotional intelligence, von Seeger views the ability to build strong relationships as one of the most important skills one can have in business today.

“Relationships are everything,” he said. “But you have nourish them. They’re literally money in the bank, and one of the most important things you need to invest in.”

In addition to building the trust necessary for developing loyal customers, von Seeger noted that when people trust you, it’s easier to access everyone on their team and build customer lifetime value.

“Without a relationship, your business is standing in the desert,” he said. “Relationships connect customers to companies, and take the focus away from politics and processes.”

For von Seeger, building those relationships comes down to just a few points:

1. Understand Your Customers

“Understand who your customer is, what their values are, and what they do,” he advised. “After you listen to them, say ‘This is what I have. Let’s meet in the middle and establish a relationship that can benefit us both.’”

2. Let Them See Your Face

A huge proponent of face-to-face meetings, von Seeger noted that the more time you spend with customers, the better.

“Customers appreciate it when you go to visit them,” he said. “They appreciate breaking out of their routine."

He added that it’s important to meet with a variety of people in the company, especially those in the C-suite, because if a team gets laid off or a part of the business is sold, your main contact could disappear, as well. 

And once you’re in someone’s office, look around and try to find things in common that will help build rapport.

Von Seeger recalls that while in a meeting with a customer, he saw a New York Yankees cup on that person’s desk, and instantly found a way to strengthen the relationship.

“All I had to do was say a few magic words,” he mused. “‘I have tickets to the Yankees game.’”

3. Listen

“You have to listen,” said von Seeger. “When I’m in meetings with my customers, I can stay quiet for two hours, and just listen to the customers talk about their pain points and their plans. If you start talking, they’re going to close up.”

He added that when you do talk, be sure you’ve done your research, be confident and motivated, and use positive language.

Be ‘Into It’

Strategies like these can help people not only in their careers, but in their personal lives, as well, concluded von Seeger.

“Sixteen years ago I didn’t know I’d be flying around the world and visiting 140 countries,” he said. “It was never about the money. It was about learning, growing and following my goals.”

His final piece of advice?

“Whatever you do — whether you’re a teacher, a professor or an executive — you have to do the best you can do and be passionate about it. If you’re really into it and you take it to heart, the pieces just fall into place.”

Title image "face to face" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  ming_9