Breaking the Boundaries: How to Form Authentic, Personal Connections with Your Customers

As a seasoned sales executive with MNI Targeted Media Inc., I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many clients, big and small, on their integrated advertising campaigns. We often discuss their challenges with brand awareness and talk about how to engage their best prospects with ads across many different platforms.

Most days I can be found sitting across from my clients in a conference room, mapping out solutions to cut through the digital clutter and determine the most cost-effective ways for them to reach their online audiences. Usually, we stay within the comfort of the sales call, making pleasantries and then diving right into business—the questions are not new but rather tried and true: What are your challenges? How can we partner together? What are you goals and, always, what is your budget?

The Elements of Authentic Communication

But when was the last time you sat down with your clients and learned about their greatest challenges, biggest regrets, and personal motivators? I mean really listened to them, understanding their perspective and learning about what makes them tick? I’m fortunate to say that I just had that opportunity at the recent Innovative Marketer event, and I’m grateful for it.

When we came up with the idea to put together the Innovative Marketer event, our goal was clear: Reach out to some of our clients and invite them to be on a panel, where we’d ask them thought-provoking questions about marketing in today’s data-driven world. I knew that the more I learned about my clients’ priorities, the more informed my recommendations would be. Just as importantly, knowing more would lead to more substantive dialogue on ways to optimize and pivot as needed. I suspected that others would appreciate these insights as well.

Being a thought-leader is a priority for MNI, and I wanted to bring this messaging and mission home to my market. What I learned from our esteemed panelists—Drew Iddings, Director of Brand Marketing and

Corporate Sponsorships at Constellation; Mack McGee, VP & CMO of SC&H Group; and Missy Teague, CMO, Merritt Companies—was more than I hoped for. I learned about their kids, their roles as parents, where they went to school, how many pets they have, where they volunteer, and how much one of them despises camping. These connections are so valuable, and as we broke down the boundaries, I saw them as people to whom I could relate, laugh, and commiserate with about the trials and tribulations that come with “adulting.” I learned about the person as well as the business—as one panelist said, the value of “Facemail”, having real 1:1 conversation from time to time, is priceless.

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, sales people should create opportunities to learn about their customers first-hand, make connections, and ultimately earn their trust and confidence. Here are a few key points that I learned from our event:

  1. Stop selling and listen.
  2. Know their business like it’s your own.
  3. Be proactive and suggest new tactics, provide research, and act as a consultant.
  4. Collaborate. Be a partner and earn their valued business.

Client-focused events offer a unique chance for them to interact with brands to get an up-close look at a company’s mission, perspective, and products. Just as we consult our clients about ways to break boundaries with impactful ways to reach their audience, we need to do the same.

So, go out there and really listen and learn about your clients. Get out of your comfort zone and break the boundaries. You may just make some friends while you’re at it.