Your Guide to Relationship Selling

By: Jeff Kalter

The Power of Relationships

Your product’s features and benefits matter. Often, however, they are not enough on their own to win new business. That’s because most markets are crowded with competitors that offer similar products, services, or solutions.

So how do you compete in saturated markets with the competition nipping at your heels?

It’s all about relationships—good old-fashioned human interactions that build trust. In fact, LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2017 US Report notes that trust in a salesperson is the number one factor in a purchase decision. These sales relationships put the customer first, focusing on creating value for the buyer over the long term that will build brand loyalty.

The fact that companies have started to recognize the importance of relationships is evident by the increasing popularity of account-based sales development (ABSD) and account-based marketing (ABM), which 87% of B2B marketers are implementing.

These account-based strategies let the customer drive the marketing and sales approach. Marketers create content that’s customized to an account’s information needs, helping them to make the purchase that’s right for them. Meanwhile, salespeople build relationships with decision-makers and buying influencers across an organization. Sales and marketing work in tandem before the sale and after it, continuing to develop and strengthen that relationship.

How to Build Sales Relationships and Sell More Without Selling

1. Replace Games with Value

When Dale Carnegie said, “The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want,” he honed in on the central tenet of relationship selling.

You have to deliver value, not just today or tomorrow but in the long term.

That means there’s no need for a strong sales pitch that dazzles prospects with lots of bells and whistles they may or may not need. Selling is about finding out what’s important to customers and delivering it. By showing value, a company builds trust.

2. Be Honest and Authentic

There is something empowering about focusing on the value you can provide. Traditional selling, which focuses on the short term, often involves game playing. Salespeople sometimes use pressure tactics to pave the way to a sale. Perhaps they talk about scarcity, saying supplies of a product are about to run out or a special deal is over in a couple of days.

On the other hand, relationship selling is honest. Salespeople are free to be authentic. Correction: They must be authentic. That’s good news because it’s easier for reps to be themselves than to try to be someone else.

3. Listen More than You Talk

If a rep is introverted, there’s no need for them to attempt to turn themselves into the stereotypical garrulous salesperson. In fact, it’s likely the introverted rep is a better listener than his extroverted colleague, and that’s an essential skill in building relationships and fostering a consultative sale.

A good listener makes the customer feel important (who doesn’t want to be listened to?) and is likely to ask the right questions. Listeners have a greater knack for finding out whether or not your company’s solution is a good fit for the prospect. That’s important because, in relationship selling, you’re not after every sale. You only want the ones that lead to satisfied customers.

4. Communicate in a Human Way

While relationships can start with electronic communication, such as emails and interactions via social media platforms, they need to be more personal and more human. That means phone calls or face-to-face meetings. There’s just something about hearing someone else’s voice, having them listen to you and enjoying a two-way exchange. In fact, it’s difficult to understand an individual’s true needs without such a conversation.

During these dialogues, a salesperson hears the buyer’s words and their intonation. Thus, they gain a deeper understanding of an individual’s emotions and greater empathy for the problems they’re trying to solve.

That’s important because how can you give someone what they want if you don’t know what it is? Once a salesperson understands the customer’s needs, they can offer value by helping to solve the problem.

5. Treat Prospects’ and Customers’ Time with Respect

There’s no need to chase customers, calling them repeatedly without an appointment. Instead, at the end of each exchange, discuss next steps and schedule a follow-up interaction. When the rep shows they value their own time as well as the customer’s time, they are more likely to emerge as a trusted consultant. When they do, prospects are happy to block time on their calendars for conversations or product demonstrations.

If you focus on building relationships and value for customers, sales are likely to come your way more easily. Be honest and authentic in your approach, listen to customer needs, go beyond electronic communications to conversations, and always respect your customers’ time.


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