It’s more important than ever to focus on relationship building. Even before COVID-19 began making dramatic changes to our economy, other economic and technological forces introduced equally significant adjustments to the traditional buyer-seller dynamic.
Even with these changes, great business relationships still lead to better sales results. However, the path to developing strong business relationships has changed. When I learned the art and skill of selling real estate in New York City in the early 2000s, having a good product, being reliable, and being friendly were often enough to allow a salesperson to build strong, long-lasting relationships with customers. Today’s business relationships with customers require sellers to deliver different types of value. After all, eCommerce has good products and can be extremely reliable.
As Director of Content Development at SPARXiQ, I’ve had the pleasure of writing a number of training programs based on the work of a variety of subject matter experts. In the case of our Relationship Quotient program, there are approaches I use all the time that are extremely valuable in today’s business world. In this article, I’ll share some of the essentials to create, sustain and improve business relationships, based on our RQ program. Do I wish I’d known this stuff twenty years ago? You bet I do.
Understand Your Role as a Salesperson: What Value Do You Bring to Your Business Relationships?
Business and sales have evolved over the years with technological advances. The value of the traditional role of sales has changed a lot and so has the way salespeople interact with their customers. As technology advances, the function of a salesperson gets more sophisticated. The process of buying has become easier and may not even require another human being.
When there is a complex product that requires your expertise as a salesperson, take advantage of this opportunity to foster a relationship with your customer and build trust. You want to become the person a customer thinks of first when they are just considering making a change or when they have questions and want guidance. You’re a valuable source of knowledge.
Sales is certainly a transactional process, but it shouldn’t end there. As long as you and your customer provide value to each other, you have the opportunity to transcend the transaction. You’re going to provide value to your customer because you understand their needs and what’s important to them. Building this relationship with your customer leads to mutual success down the road.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All: What are Your Customer’s Specific Needs?
Too many salespeople approach all initial client and prospect meetings the same way. Unfortunately, this can handcuff their ability to develop strong business relationships with their customers. Early interactions, in particular, are very important because they can make or break the sales and business relationship.
How many times have you thought within the first few minutes of meeting someone, “I don’t want to do business with this person?” Is it possible there are prospects out there who may have thought that about you after an initial meeting? The better you understand the dynamics of relationships, the better you can master these initial meetings.
Do your research on the anticipated topic of discussion and on each client before you show up to an appointment. Have some data to back up what you’re talking about when the time’s appropriate. This gives you Credibility. You may not have all the answers and that’s okay. Don’t pretend to know something you don’t or be something you’re not. This shows your Integrity. Be who you are and be okay with that. This shows your Authenticity. These three principles, together, form what we like to call “CIA” and enable you to lay the groundwork for the client to open up and share their needs.
I recommend letting the client lead the meeting because this sets the tone and tells you how to approach this particular meeting. You may have a client who starts the meeting off by sharing tales of a recent fishing trip. Don’t stop them and demand you get down to business. Talk about fishing.
You may have another client who dives straight into the problem their business is facing. Don’t stop them and demand small talk. Get down to business. In each of these examples, the customer expresses a need – their desire to engage in small talk or their desire to talk turkey.
If you’re able to uncover a need from your customer within the first moments of talking to them, you’re already addressing their needs. That goes a long way in launching a relationship that takes time to develop.
Ultimately, your goal is to truly understand your customer’s Goals, Passions and Struggles through your meetings. Focus your developing relationship on addressing those areas, known as your customer’s GPS in our RQ program.
Get Comfortable Communicating Virtually with Customers
The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly transformed many businesses into remote workspaces and forced us to adapt to virtual avenues of communication. Because sales is about connecting with people, getting comfortable with video conferencing can help bring the social aspect back into the equation. Adapt to various video platforms to better serve your customers.
Tips for Conducting Business Remotely
- Keep a professional mentality
- Be disciplined about planning your day
- Keep regular business hours
- Dress for the day and maintain business attire (Many Zoom meetings are set to turn your webcam or your phone’s video camera on when you join, so be set up in a professional setting and for goodness sakes, wear pants!)
Keep Your Customer’s Needs Front and Center
Most sellers aren’t formally taught the playbook to create, sustain and improve business relationships. Keep the customer’s best interest at the forefront of your relationship. What companies need are salespeople who can truly connect with a customer, not just facilitate a transaction. Let the client lead the beginning of the relationship and use your CIA to earn their business and learn their GPS.
Consider the following questions:
- Are you the first person your customer would reach out to when they have a question?
- If you can answer, “yes,” it’s probably a solid, valuable business relationship
- What would limit a customer or buyer from using your competition?
- Ideally, the answer is, “Our business relationship is too valuable for them to switch.”
Business Relationship Training
Relationship Quotient teaches actionable, practical approaches that strengthen your entire portfolio of business relationships to make you truly competitor-proof.