A Guide to Building Customer Relationships
Are you building important relationships with your customers?
You might ask, "Is this even important? Isn't my job to just show up and teach them to get better at piano?"
Newsflash: The world is complicated, and so are people. It's not enough to just be good at your job.
If you want to attract high-quality clients, love what you do - and get paid well for it - keep on reading.
Building Customer Relationships
Here's a secret: People don't care about how good you are. And they don't care about how much you know.
This is because your skillset is secondary.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's bad to work on your skills. After all, you definitely should do your best to be the best.
But if you want to build an actual, thriving business, then this one thing is all that matters:
What do your customers think of you?
How good you are at something matters less than your clients' perception of you. And they will base their perception of you on what they feel for you.
As Zig Ziglar once said, "people don't care about you until they know how much you care about them."
Most businesses do the complete opposite. They become too focused on their product or services. It's like being a piano teacher that only cares about the music.
The problem is ... they completely ignore the person in front of them.
Now, you might succeed if you're the only one in your industry. But more likely, there are hundreds - if not thousands - of people making the things you make, doing the things you do.
So if you think of your business as just a product (or a service) ... then you're just another commodity.
And when you're a commodity, that usually means you have to compete on price. To compete on price often means lowering your prices.
That's a fast way to go broke.
With this strategy, only businesses with the deepest pockets will succeed. It becomes a war of attrition to see how much money can be thrown at a problem until their competitors quit or fail
Yet, you can sidestep this scenario and make your competition non-existent by delivering in another way.
Can You Handle The Truth?
A quick story about my father's business ventures:
For my entire childhood, he ran a dry cleaners. His first store was so successful that he opened another, and then a third location.
In hindsight, this was a terrible idea. Not only did it nearly bankrupt us - we had to close up shop and find a new way to make money - he just didn't understand this one, important principle:
The other stores failed ... because he wasn't there.
People weren't there to only get their clothes cleaned (and freshly pressed), they came because they loved talking to him (my dad's always been a friendly guy).
Just through interacting with everyone, he built important customer relationships. And this wasn't a strategy. He wasn't even aware this could be a strategy, he did all this by default (I told you he was a friendly dude).
He mistook superior people skills for business skills.
He thought the store was his product, but he didn't realize his product was actually his customers.
Stand Out From the Crowd
So do what my dad did - just not on accident.
This is your secret weapon, the most potent cure to all of your business problems (well, almost all of them).
And it's not even that hard because most businesses don't care about people. The bar is lower than it's ever been!
Do you remember the last time someone actually looked you in the eye, gave you a warm smile and was genuinely curious about how your day was going?
Me neither. It's more like I can count on my fingers how many times that's actually happened in the past year.
But ... I remember those interactions because it made me feel special.
When you care about your customers, you make them feel the same way. You show them that they can trust you.
And when you have their trust, work is fun. It becomes less about competing on price, and more about offering value or taking your service and skills to the next level
Just think about how much more energy you would have if your customers weren't just financially, but emotionally invested in you.
Imagine being excited waking up every day to work.
Your relationships become Win-Win. Your customer's success becomes your success.
Now, looking forward to work, having high-quality clients and feeling fulfilled are just a few benefits of a people-based approach.
Let's take a look at one more major one.
Price Check On Aisle 7
After my father's business setback, he bought and operated a liquor store. And yes, he repeated the same mistake. He thought his business acumen made the store successful.
Again, it was because the customers loved him, not our high prices. There were at least 2 stores down the block who charged HALF of what we did, no joke.
But from this experience, I learned a very important lesson: You can charge higher prices if you back it up with excellent people skills.
When I started applying this to my piano studio, I also discovered higher prices attracted the right people.
So not only do you get better customers with this approach, it also keeps the wrong ones away - people looking for the cheapest options are usually the worst clients.
And even if a few prospects balk at your price, imagine having a full wait-list of clients who can't wait to take their place.
But to get to this point, you need to compete against yourself - not other mediocre businesses - and make sure your price always, and accurately, reflects your value (what you offer other than your service or product).
Now, if you always raise your quality of work then you'll be able to consistently raise your prices as well.
This can definitely feel uncomfortable (more like terrifying). The first time I did this, I imagined clients leaving by the drove, shouting at me while I dissolved into a disgraceful, unrecognizable lump of a former human-being.
What really happened is I got ZERO pushback. And I believe it's because my services go beyond teaching piano.
Once you get to this point, you can create a "positive spiral":
So higher prices create better outcomes that allow you to charge higher prices to create even better outcomes ... to infinity and beyond!
Who would want to get off this ride?
The Secret Sauce
By now, I've hopefully convinced you why customer relationships matter so much. So how do you get out of your own head and into your customers' minds?
First, be interested and not interesting. What I mean is don't try to convince a prospect with your words. Instead, be interested in every word that comes out of their mouth.
Sounds simple in theory, but the key is to not treat this as a means to an end. You have to be genuinely interested in the other person just for the sake of finding them interesting.
When you connect at this level, it's real to them - people know when someone's faking.
It also helps you feel less lonely. When you start out as a piano teacher/business owner, it's just you.
When you think that you're the "lone wolf" you tend to see other people as your competition, the enemy. Clients are conquests to be conquered.
But when you believe everyone is interesting, you bring them over to your side. They become almost a friend, someone invested in your success. And I can tell you the biggest shift in my professional career was when I started to put the needs of my clients above my own.
Help people and they'll help you.
Of course, there's a caveat. You have to be on the lookout for "takers." With these people, the more you give the more they'll take advantage of you.
But remember, your above-average prices should repel most of them.
In this last section, here are 3 simple steps to connect with anyone.
That's it. If you have a hard time remembering, I suggest you (temporarily) tattoo it across your forehead.
If you were to sit in on my piano lessons, I'd ask you to pay attention to the first 5 minutes. At EVERY lesson, I begin with the question "what do you have to share this week?"
This is to show them that I care about them and I want to know what's going on in their personal lives. And when they start sharing, I let them "empty their tank."
Because of this simple gesture, they begin to realize that their well-being is more important to me than any music I'll ever teach them.
By the way, it's not about just staying quiet. You listen with your whole body - and your mind. Are you looking them in their eyes? Do you nod along with your head? Is your body posture open and facing them?
So ... why exactly is listening with your full attention so powerful? It's because when you do this successfully, you shine a giant spotlight on the person in front of you.
And who doesn't love that type of attention? So many times students get lost in their own grind - chores, homework, endless activities - and when you do this one simple thing, they feel like the star of their own movie.
And this is something you should be able to relate to as well. Everyone, at least once in their lives, has had the experience of being the complete center of someone else's attention.
It feels magical.
But understand that not everyone's comfortable with this attention in the beginning. After all, if you're walking down the street do you want everyone to - all of a sudden - start staring at you?
So at first, it can feel awkward until some of the students realize that I really am interested in them.
And by the way, they won't always have something to share (or even want to) and this is 100% A OKAY.
It's the effort that counts.
So remember: Ask Questions. Shut Up. Listen.
We Are Family
So don't look at a potential customer as a dollar sign, see them as a person. Don't just offer a service or a product, create your own tribe.
Now, I'm not saying you need to make your customers your friends. But there's no reason you can't be as friendly as possible.
And when it comes down to it, there is no product, no service that doesn't rely on people. Make them feel valued and you will always be in demand.
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