On average, it can cost a business five times as much to gain a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer. The likelihood of selling to a new prospect is only 5-to 20 percent, while the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60-to 70 percent. In business, building your skills in customer relationship management, or CRM, can pay huge dividends, but it shouldn't stop with your customers. Relationships with your employees, partners and suppliers can be just as important.

CRM Begins With Understanding Customers' Needs

At the center of any successful business is the ability to understand what customers need, what their priorities are and what they are unwilling to settle for. Even if you run an e-commerce website with little discernible interaction, every transaction represents a new relationship between you and your customers. Every abandoned shopping cart represents a failure to keep that relationship moving forward. To develop this skill, educate yourself on trends and priorities in your market, talk to your customers about their needs and conduct surveys.

Treat People as Individuals

Understanding your customers' needs is just the first step in developing your relationship management skills. Getting to know people as individuals is paramount to developing strong, long-term relationships. For customers, this begins by learning their names – and remembering them. Talk to your customers, prospects, employees and suppliers. Find out what common interests you have and then build on those commonalities to deepen your business relationships. If you find it difficult to remember details, make notes after each conversation that you can go back to later. Here are 5 useful gestures to help you build better business relationships.

Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

The fastest way to undermine a relationship is to break a promise. If you say you're going to deliver a project by Wednesday, finishing it on Thursday is nearly as bad as not finishing it at all. To develop trust, it's vital that your customers and the people you work with understand that you will keep your word. If you're not certain you can finish a project on Wednesday, be honest about it, promise to get it finished for Thursday and – if at all possible – deliver it Tuesday.

Know Yourself and Manage Yourself

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has buttons that will set them off when triggered. Before you find yourself in a situation where you may say or do something you regret, take a self-inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Not everyone is good at invoicing or can deal with angry customers diplomatically – at least, not without some practice. Consider deepening your understanding by taking a customer relations course. In the meantime, delegate the tasks you're not good at to someone else in your organization.