From the Editor: Four Steps to Better Sales Relationships
October has arrived and it is the last quarter of 2013. Who knew that temperatures would range wildly across the nation or that the economic talk would span the good, the bad, and the ridiculous? None of us can predict the future, but I think it is safe to say that your salespeople could make a big difference to your bottom line as this year begins to wind down. I am not a salesperson by trade but from what I have experienced on both sides of the selling conversation, selling is more than vomiting facts and features to customers. It is an artfully crafted give and take relationship.
That’s right, a relationship. The funky hat vendor on the parade route doesn’t worry about relationships. He hawks his wares to crazed children who nag their parents for one of everything. The likelihood of running into that hat vendor again is low, at least until next year’s parade. Those who sell for a distributor, however, don’t just hawk items to one-time customers. They have to look each one in the eye every time they make a repeat sales call. Face it, without repeat business a distributor is sunk.
The question is, “How do you forge a strong customer relationship?” Relationships are a two-sided venture, and as a woman, I think I can help provide some answers to one side. I don’t play the girl card as a rule, but this time I will make an exception. Here are four relationship suggestions to help you and your employees sell.
Have a Flexible Plan
Heading into the office of a potential client is like walking up the sidewalk to pick up your date for the first time. You put your best foot forward, check your breath, and calm your nerves. You want the person to like you and what you have to say. Besides looking good and smelling good, it is important that sales people have a flexible plan ready as they begin their relationship with the new client. There is nothing more annoying than a guy showing up at the door for a first date without a plan. Having a plan doesn’t mean that it can’t change. Salespeople who show up with a plan and are bound and determined to get through that plan, often don’t make the impression they were hoping for. A flexible plan, however, shows that the sales people have knowledge and expertise but that they are willing to adapt their plans and approach to meet the customer’s needs and desires.
Listen with Understanding
Having approached the customer with a flexible plan for the initial meeting, it is important to watch and listen for non-verbal and verbal cues. Have you ever sat down to dinner and begin to talk to someone who is watching the television above your head? They can likely repeat every word you said, but they are so distracted by the television they aren’t understanding what
is being communicated.
Sales people, even journalists, can fall prey to this common mistake. They are so busy trying to decide what to say next that they aren’t understanding what they are hearing. It often translates to the customer as being detached or being ignored. Taking the time to just listen to a customer without an agenda could be one of the more positive steps sales people could make in developing a new relationship.
Feigning interest in your new date’s Pinterest hobby is just polite, but when you are working to establish a new relationship, it is important to carefully balance politeness and honesty. For sales people, this could mean being genuine. Merriam Webster defines genuine as, “actual, real, or true: not false or fake: sincere and honest.”
We all know that sales people are there to make a sale. If they check their motivation and sincerity, however, sales people might discover that being in the room to solve a customer problem is more genuine and advantageous than to sell products. An adjustment in motivation will likely change the non-verbal message being sent by sales people and in the tight markets today, “Slick Rick” with all the answers isn’t likely to make it very far in a sales relationship.
No woman likes to be called or texted every hour on the hour, but she does like to know that she is important and that you are interested. It can be much the same way with any customer, new or established.
Salespeople who balance timely follow up and attentiveness will find that this often translates to appreciativeness. It helps build rapport and relationship and it helps deter that love ‘em and leave ‘em mentality.
Considering the affect of some of these relationship principles could help your sales team find a new approach to their customers and keep them from looking like that funky hat vendor.