Clients or Customers?

by | Dec 15, 2017 | Relationship Selling

What do you call the people that do business with you? Are they clients or customers? I believe there’s a significant difference.

For example, how would you categorize someone that shops at Wal-Mart. They come to make a purchase – it’s a transaction. Now think about your CPA or lawyer.What do you think they call you, their customer or client?

How you view those you do business with depends on your mindset, and that may largely impact how they behave. Here are three criteria that shows the difference between a client and a customer.

With a client, it’s not about the sale, it’s about the ongoing relationship. You work at helping them improve their business for the long-term. Clients heed your advice and if you’ve done your job right, they count on your expertise. Your insight is valued because they believe that your relationship with them is an investment you make in their business.

With a customer, it’s more focused on the immediate purchase, how good of a deal they can get, with no commitment or expectations for the future. They might do business with you again, but maybe not. There are no expectations of a long-term relationship.

Getting them to buy from you again will most likely depend on their immediate needs, convenience and pricing. That’s why with auto dealers, their main advertising strategy is focused on pricing.

Unfortunately, they miss the opportunity to turn a customer into a client with this approach.

Second point is this: With a client, needs are viewed as mutual and interdependent. You’re both seeking a win- win relationship.

You’re committed to the idea that the more you can do for your client, the more their business succeeds and the more likely that you’ll be seen as an asset. You don’t have to be an employee for your insights to be highly respected. They know that you have their best interest at heart.

With a customer, you’re not working to build a relationship. You may only be with them for minutes. They are focused on their needs, their interests and getting what they want. That’s their top priority.

The third and final point is that clients are more focused on value and are usually willing to pay for it. Value is defined by their needs. The more you understand what your clients are trying to accomplish, the more you can position your products and services as strategic solutions to improve their business.

To help a client understand your value, you must position your solutions in alignment with their issues. Your offerings only become a solution when it solves their problem. It’s your job to connect those dots!

It’s the opposite with a customer who is more likely to be interested in a good price. They view you as a commodity and they have many sources from which to choose. There’s no real opportunity or need to uniquely differentiate yourself from your competitors.

To this type of customer, a lower price is your value, meaning the lower the price, the better. In some industries, the words client and customer are interchangeable. In others a customer may be more relationship-based than transaction.

But, from my experience, the key is how you treat the people you sell to. Every buyer is looking for value, so whether it’s a transaction or a long-term, win-win relationship, treat them with respect. Work to provide the optimal solution to meet their need, and you’ll succeed.

Good selling!