The key to prosperity is interacting with customers in a way that truly fulfils their needs and values says Steve Martin Think as a customer for a few moments. In a world where choice is all important, does anyone stop to ask if there is too much choice? Or are the apparent choices real options? Received wisdom tells us that too much choice is not possible ­ but how many choices are significant? The fact we all have access to an array of options and services when we make purchasing decisions is empowering. But what happens when we look more closely and find little to differentiate them? Are consumers offered a choice or are they merely being offered the same products and services under a different brand or labelling? Consumers are often faced with trying to make decisions to purchase products and services that are very similar. They also know about price matching, where one supplier or retailer promises to match the lowest prices of a competitor. Given the choice, what do they do? They either choose the cheapest product available or, more often that not, they go back to the place where they struck up a constructive relationship with a retailer. There are lessons to be learnt from organisations that strive to build valuable relationships with customers. These are organisations which interact with their customers in a way that fulfils their needs and higher values and whose front line sales people, be they representatives, key accounts managers, store assistants or call centre staff, are able to build relationships that encourage sales growth. What lessons can we learn from such bodies that would help us to develop similar relationships with our customers? The answer lies in understanding how to see a customer's point of view. How does a customer feel when the only time their insurance company contacts them is when it is time for their policy to be renewed? What thoughts go through customers' minds when they experience uninformed or poorly supported sales staff? The way customers feel about your organisation and its products is of paramount importance, as most of your customers will make their purchasing decisions on an emotional level ­ not necessarily a logical one. Therefore in a world of converging products and me-too suppliers, the level of service and added value provided by an organisation is its most important difference. Although most of us work within fmcg, the healthcare industry provides us a good example of how a company can revolutionise its relationships with customers. By redefining and then selling service first, a huge blue chip company was able to differentiate itself from the competition. This led not only to greater market share and sales return but also cut staff churn and improvement of the working environment across the organisation. So it is crucial to recognise that the key point of every company's relationship with customers are the customers themselves. Therefore providing support, training and coaching to the sales staff who interact with customers on a regular basis is essential. A company's sales team which can demonstrate that it understand its customers, and can talk to them meaningfully, will succeed. Many studies have shown that it can often cost up to five times more to find a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. An organisation that strives to completely delight and satisfy its customers will build valuable relationships and ensure its future prosperity. Steve Martin works for sales training company Sales InterAction {{TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT }}