In my last post, I explored the need for job boards to deepen the connections they make in their customer relationship management (CRM). That notion is based on a simple premise best articulated by Harvey McKay in his book, Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: “Knowing something about your customer is just as important as knowing everything about your product.” So, the challenge for job boards is to find the best way to get to know their customers better.
The term “six degrees of separation” was originally meant to convey the idea that even individuals who are seemly very distant from one another – you and Bono, for example – are only six links apart. What we’ve since learned, however, is that those six links are difficult to leverage, on social media sites no less than in the real world. In a practical sense, six degrees of separation is actually a way of acknowledging that the more distant you are from someone, the less productive your relationship is likely to be.
That’s the downside to CRM, but there’s an upside, as well. I call it the” six degrees of connection.” If six degrees of separation means that the more distant you are from a contact, the less productive your relationship is likely to be, then six degrees of connection indicates that the deeper your engagement with a contact, the more productive that relationship can be.
But, how exactly do you deepen a connection with a current or prospective customer?
The answer is that you must shape your interactions with each of your customers with each of the six degrees of connection. The more of those degrees you implement, the richer and more robust your relationship with them. And, the deeper those relationships, the more they will show an interest in and be loyal to your products and services. In effect, they see your interaction with them as a helping hand from a friend rather than a purchase from a vendor.
The six degrees of connection establish the following outcomes in the following order:
The first level of connection is simple: be connected. Stay in touch regularly. Yes, it’s hard enough to find the time to schedule one visit with a customer let alone several in a year, so if that’s your problem, establish continuity by making your annual visit something that occurs on the same date each year – their birthday, the winter solstice, whatever – so it is acknowledged (and maybe even celebrated) as a natural aspect of your relationship.
It takes more than a little courage in today’s hyper critical culture to be genuine and honest with relative strangers – and at least in the beginning, that’s what your customers are – but those who take this step stand out as special connections. So, don’t be a salesperson or a company rep. Be yourself and be in the moment when meeting with customers. Let them get to know you, so they’ll be inclined to let you get to know them.
Strangers are seldom good customers, and customers are only strangers if you allow them to be. Look for and celebrate personal characteristics, experiences or interests that you share with your customer. Reinforce your connection with something you have in common. Start with the easy stuff – an alma mater, favorite sports team or former employer – and move on as necessary to less obvious linkages – a shared hobby, favorite travel destination or even (with care) children of the same age.
In addition to being yourself, adopt the role of a supportive colleague – a caring fellow professional. Establish yourself as an expert in talent acquisition by looking for and taking advantage of opportunities to be helpful to your customers without selling them something. Share experiences you’ve had and insights you’ve gained and do so with a single objective: to advance their success. More often than not, they’ll do the same for you.
As your connection with customers deepens, you will, from time-to-time – learn about an important occurrence or situation in their lives. At that point, it’s appropriate to be a friend as well as a colleague. Treat these events with the dignity and respect they deserve, whether it’s the celebration of a child’s birth or the sympathy expressed at a personal loss or setback. Be there for them simply because you care about them.
The deepest degree of connection – especially in today’s egocentric culture – is a willingness to go second – to let the other person take the lead in and steer each interaction you have with them. Don’t come to the relationship with an agenda, but instead, show that you’re willing to listen and respond accordingly. Show that the relationship isn’t built on what you want to get out of it, but rather on what you can contribute to it.
Now, I’m not naïve – I understand that the whole purpose of CRM is to close some business. Fine. But, we often spend so much time ensuring (and measuring) the return from our customer interactions that we forget they’re essentially interactions between human beings. As long as that’s so, the depth of the connection that’s established – not how well it’s managed or scheduled – will be the single greatest determinant of success.
Food for thought,
The Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle is brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.
Mark Your Calendars! TAtech’s 2017 events include:
• April 22-23, 2017 Chicago: The TAtech Spring Congress & Deal Center, with The Business Accelerator for insights on your customers’ spending trends, practices and needs.
• May 17-19, 2017 Barcelona: RecTech, The TAtech Industry Congress in the EU in partnership with the AIM Group.
• May 31-June 1, 2017 Minneapolis: The TAtech Leadership Summit on Programmatic Ad Buying, featuring two tracks: Programmatic Ad Buying Applications & Programmatic Ad Buying Technology.
• September 27-29, 2017 Denver: The TAtech Fall Congress & Deal Center, with The World Job Board Forum and the 2017 ReSI Awards Gala.