Sales Skill #4. Creating Long-Term Relationships
It’s your long-term relationships that bring the highest level of success in good times, and which protect you in bad times. Without this skill, you’ll be constantly building up new business from scratch — a process that’s expensive, time-consuming and chancy. Here’s how to hone this skill:
STEP #1: Believe that relationships are important. I don’t want to go all crunchy-granola on you, but the truth is that people can tell if you’re really serious about building relationships or just going through the motions. If you don’t really want to have a relationship, don’t bother pretending, ’cause it won’t work.
STEP #2: Get curious about people. It is simple human nature that people are drawn to those who show a true interest in them. And curiosity gives you the opportunity to learn new things and make new connections. Seriously, it’s more fun than, say, watching TV. Always something new and surprising.
STEP #3: Act in a consistent manner. A customer’s ability to trust you (and thus be willing to share a relationship) is dependent upon showing the customer that your behavior is consistent and persistent over time. When a customer can predict your behavior, that customer is more likely to invest you with trust.
STEP #4: Treat every meeting as relationship-building opportunity. When it comes to relationships, the messenger (who you are) is much more important than the message (what you have to say.) Plan on coming out of the meeting knowing more about the customer and understanding how you can better be of service… even if it means backing off.
STEP #5: Seek the truth. Find out if you really have something that can help the customer. Discover the real areas where the two of you can work together. Don’t be afraid to admit to your firm’s weaknesses, when appropriate. Make it about helping the customer, not about making a buck.
STEP #6: Keep an open mind. Walk into a customer meeting absolutely convinced that the customer needs your offering, and the customer will sense you’re close-minded… and become close-minded in return. Be open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere, customers will sense that you’ve got their best interests at heart and listen to what you have to say.
STEP #7: Have real dialogs. A customer meeting should be a conversation, not a sales pitch. However, the dialog should be about real business issues, not office patter or sports chit-chat. Later, maybe, when you’re pals, you can do the small talk. But when it’s business, talking business is not just appropriate, it’s interesting and fun.