The sales industry seems to experience major shifts every five or ten years. Many of these shifts are the result of the way technology changes. Others have to do with cultural ebbs and flows. But one of the more confounding changes over the last decade has been the lack of personal attention clients and prospects get in sales.
Why Relationships Matter
Over the years we’ve seen an influx of sales and marketing automation tools in the business world. The result? If there’s an aspect of your sales strategy that you want to streamline, there’s an app, software, or innovative tool to help you remove yourself from the equation and automate your interactions. But is this a positive development?
Sometimes automation is good. It can save time, improve accuracy, and promote greater consistency. But too much automation can hurt the overall health and vitality of your business. That’s because automation undercuts and compromises your ability to connect with prospects on a personal level and build relationships with them.
Customers are people. And what do people care about? If we’re being honest, we’re all looking out for numero uno: ourselves. We spend almost every second of every day thinking about how we can make ourselves comfortable, happy, healthy, or secure. Nearly every decision we make is a decision to put ourselves first.
This “me-centric” mentality may seem overly selfish, but it’s a part of natural selection and survival of the fittest. For millions of years, the animals that have survived the longest have been the ones that are capable of looking out for themselves. (The moment a small rodent loses focus in the vast expanse of the rainforest is the moment he’s eaten by larger, stronger prey. As soon as a soldier stops protecting himself in the line of battle, he gets a spear thrown through his chest, etc.)
We all care about ourselves – and that includes your sales prospects and clients. And if you want to appease this fundamental element of humanity, you have to make the person on the other end of the conversation feel special and important. You have to stroke their ego.
Relationships appeal to our sense of importance and belongingness. When we perceive that others care about us, it validates and reaffirms the notion that we matter. In the business world, as in our personal lives, this plays a distinct role in how we make decisions.
4 Tips for Building Stronger Relationships in Sales
Jim Davidson is the founder of Coral Gables Trust Company. For years he’s worked closely with business owners and successful professionals and he’s noticed the most successful people are the ones who have the deepest relationships with their clients.
Davidson recalls a story some years ago when he went on a hunting trip to South Carolina with a handful of friends. One night, in the wee hours of the morning, one of his friend’s phone rang. It was a VIP client of his whose son had just been arrested on narcotics charges. The client was desperate, emotional, and in need of comfort. Davidson’s friend stayed on the phone with him for two hours.
This may seem like an extreme example, but it speaks volumes. This individual had built such a solid relationship with his client that he called him in his greatest time of need.
You don’t need relationships that are this deep, but you should strive to go deeper than surface level. Here are some ways you can strengthen your sales relationships:
1. Don’t Screw Up the First Meeting
“When you use traditional sales language, potential clients can’t help but label you with the negative stereotype of ‘salesperson.’ This makes it almost impossible for them to relate to you from a position of trust,” entrepreneur Ari Galper writes.
Your first meeting with a prospect is often the most important. It sets the tone and establishes the first impression. But if you spend too much of this time focusing on a sales pitch, you’ll set the wrong tone. Instead, you need to foster a genuine connection.
2. Listen More Than You Speak
There will be times for you to talk, but these moments are much fewer and farther between than you probably realize. The majority – or at least half – of your time spent with prospects should be listening.
When you listen, you get the chance to see where people are coming from. They’ll tell you what they want and why they want it. This eliminates much of the back and forth guessing game that often exists in the traditional sales process.
3. Find Common Experiences
If you want your relationship with prospects to go beyond the product or solution you’re selling, then you need to find some common ground. Whether it’s sports, mutual friends, hobbies, or interests, common experiences will pull you together and strengthen your sales pitch. Over time, these elements give you something to rekindle the relationship with. They’re invaluable in the big picture.
4. Be Transparent
You can’t hold back in your relationships. There eventually comes a point where you may have to create some commotion or insert a little friction.
As a sales consultant, Warren Wick writes, “The deeper the conversations become, the more transparency you need to provide. Sometimes you will actually have to tell customers something they don’t want to hear. That’s OK. Like any relationship — sales or otherwise — honesty helps both sides grow.”
Giving Weight to Relationships
You have to stop selling and start building meaningful relationships with prospects and clients. The person on the other end of the phone, email, or dinner table is an individual with specific needs, wants, desires, and frustrations. As you get to know that person, you’ll become aware of what matters to the individual, which gives you an opportunity to build a strong relationship that’s predicated on real connections and ideas.
Now’s your chance to revamp your sales strategy and include action steps that prioritize relationship building. If you don’t, one of your competitors will.