Relationship Selling, Key to Continued Growth

Are You Building Your Customer Relationships?

The first time you walk into your new prospect's business or they walk into your showroom, there is a lot of evaluation going on. I had a boss one time that put it very clearly in a visual of two dogs sniffing each other....Ok, a little gross but so darn accurate. You are looking at how they do business, determining if quality or cost is the biggest driver, looking for indications of competition, if they are financially capable of paying their bills, and so on. Never think they aren't doing the same thing!

What a good salesman is also doing is looking for that indication of a level of connection. But be careful. I used to call on a shrewd old stinker of a purchasing agent that had a big bass hanging on the wall in his office. Anyone that mentioned that bass in connection with him lost any chance of doing business with his company - regardless of how good your product was or how good a salesman you were. I was fortunate in that I didn't think it was that big and didn't use it in trying to connect to the guy. Only after we had been doing business for a while did I even mention going fishing on my own. He looked at me and said something about hating fishing, but loving to eat fish. I asked who caught the fish in his office, and the told me right then, "I haven't a clue. It was there when I moved in. Anyone that concentrates on that as our connection first is out on his ear!" We had already been doing business and he had been working on his relationship with me as much as I had been with him - so he was comfortable enough to mention it to me.

Not all buyers are so anal to do anything like that specifically, but don't think for a minute they don't have their own weeding process. It may be in the questions they ask, how you present yourself or even just to the point of how you make your appointment to see them and then show up on time.

Become a Resource

The company you represent is paying you to sell the products they provide to you for sale. How you go about doing that may have a pretty scripted means of getting the product in front of the buyer and showing, promoting, discussing just what the product is going to do for them. But what if there are 100 others that have just about the same darn thing - some cheaper, some more expensive, some higher or lower quality? The buyer is going to buy from the one who is most valuable to them, period. So how do you make yourself valuable to the prospect?

Make yourself a resource for the prospect. Bring him articles about the business he is in and how it is changing or being affected by some government changes. Show that you have a genuine interest in how the prospect's company might be able to succeed going forward, and if you can show how you and your products can lead that success, good for you. But even if your products do not change the bigger picture, ask how you can help the manager.

Think about his role and his position. He/she has to make decisions every day based on their own limited exposure to what is being purchased. If you can provide some light as to why there is a need to look at something different - well there you go. Be the resource! It may not involve what you normally sell, and it may involve your having to ask more questions of others. Ultimately you become a valued part of their business.

Do Nots

Whatever you do become, do not become a gossip bringing hearsay to the discussion. Nothing will get you a big bite taken right out of your backside faster than living off supposition and innuendo. Only factual information is to be offered and not to cut down or short-change a direct competitor. Try to keep away from specific discussions about competition except when showing specific comparisons.

Do not mix personal assists with business. This can become a real mistake. In other words, helping with your prospects kids soccer team, or babysitting for them while they go out on the town. You are trying to become an equal with similar goals - not a servant. Do not get their email and just drop notes on family, friends etc. Do no join them on FB and start inviting them or commenting on their family outings, children, etc. Do not send/forward emails that are the least bit political, racial or have sexual content.

Dos

Do join and become active in associations that are directly involved in the industry you represent. Do participate in discussions whenever possible that positively bring your products to the forefront. Do send emails that are pertinent to the products you sell. Do ask when how the prospect would like for you to continue to support them. If there is anything, even things you do not sell, that you can help them find.

Over time and after a lot of work, you will have a great customer. The guy that just drops in and trys to make a sale hasn't got a chance of beating you even with lower prices. Your customer will bring you that information and it is up to you to answer any questions.

Good luck, and build those relationships in 2012!

The Inventurist

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