DID YOU KNOW?: Building Relationships While Prospecting for Business

Written by Mary Zimmerman
CIRAS PTAP Government Contracting Specialist

Remember that every business exists to meet customers’ needs. If you believe your job is to understand and solve the customer’s problems, then you will exude a natural, helpful confidence.

Building a rapport – making a connection with your customer – is one of the most effective ways to build trust. Building a rapport means making an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When you put yourself in your customer’s shoes, you can then interpret and think about what your customer expects from you and tailor your approach to moving through the selling steps in a way that meets those expectations.

When communicating, think “WIIFM” – “What’s in it for me?” – a viewpoint from the customer’s perspective. Customers want to know if what you offer can save them time or money, improve a design, or provide a better, more cost-efficient solution.

Listening to your customers to discover their needs helps you understand and suggest appropriate products or services to meet those needs. Typical communication entails telling them who you are and the value you provide. But then, flip the tables and ask customers about their organization. Inquire about their needs, people, challenges, current focus, and what they don’t like about current suppliers. These are questions that will enable you to tie two or three points to the value that your company provides when you follow up with them later with a meeting or email.

When you are communicating with customers, the idea is not to just to sell your products or services, but it’s also to collect intelligent information. This will allow you to identify your differentiators (what makes you stand apart; what makes you different from your competitors) and how to best communicate competitive advantage. Think of it as informal market research!

Building customer relationships and communicating your value can also be applied when targeting opportunities within government agencies who are likely buyers of the products or services that you sell.  For further assistance on this, contact your local CIRAS government contracting specialist, who is happy to assist on how you can gather information and build those relationships!

Mary Zimmerman can be reached at maryz@iastate.edu or 515-450-1278.