In this issue, Part 3, I’ll discuss the importance of building a relationship with your customer by becoming a trusted partner that can help them solve their problem.
Today, customers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable. They are more skeptical and resistant to spend their hard-earned money. So they do research on what’s available, who the competitors are, the market, pricing options, and anything that will help them make a more informed decision. And sometimes they may know more about your competitors and your market than you do. How? Simple. A little thing called the Internet has put a wealth of knowledge into the hands of consumers and businesses. So you have to make sure you know what they know, and even more.
Since purchasers and consumers have all this added knowledge, they have to rely on people who can help them solve their problems. As a result, they will want to look upon you as a problem-solver and planner who they can count on to add-value to what they already researched and learned. Therefore, you need to sell VALUE. You do this by becoming a “partner” instead of just a sales rep who is trying to sell them something. A partner helps them understand the pluses and minuses of what they are purchasing. They educate them on the value and worth of their investments. And they make sure that their decision truly solves their problems, now and in the future.
In order to do this successfully, you need to develop some relationship-selling skills. Most of these skills are easily learned simply by understanding the old versus the new methods of selling. Quite simply, the new way is to make the prospect’s interests your top priority. If you can solve their problems, then the money will follow. The old way is to focus on the sale and your money, regardless of what the prospect needs. Let’s take a look at a comparison of the old and new ways of selling.
In the relationship method of selling, sales reps focus on Listening instead of Telling, which was the way of the traditional selling style. Sales reps who insist on telling the prospect all about their product without first listening to what the prospect needs is bound to fail. Additionally, the new way of selling focuses on Opening an Alliance as the goal instead of “Closing” the deal. The sales rep needs to focus on the long-term benefits of the customer, which will yield long-term benefits for the sales rep.
Where the Interview style is how relationship selling succeeds today, the Pitch was the norm in the old way. Picture Colombo, the TV detective, asking many, seemingly naïve, questions versus a car salesman on a commercial telling you all about his cars. Relationship sales reps solve customer problems instead of handle customer Objections. And, they view the relationship as “We win” instead of “I win”. They also focus on building the relationship with this client instead of selling to the Next client. Relationship sales reps concentrate on the Customer’s bottom line instead of just their own. And they try to make the more effective Solution-oriented sale instead of a Product-oriented sale.
So, if you think or perform like the “traditional” sales method, try changing to a relationship-style of selling. I guarantee that it will make you more successful as a sales professional. If you’re not totally convinced that the new way of selling is superior to the old, traditional method, let’s explore this further. One of the reasons the traditional model doesn’t work is because of how much time the sales rep spends in each stage of the sales cycle.
A traditional sales style spends very little time with the initial contact and qualifying steps. As a result, they spend a lot of time, too much time, in the subsequent steps. They spend a lot of time establishing credibility because they didn’t build trust and a relationship early on during the initial contact. They spend way too much time presenting the solution because earlier they did not qualify the prospect well enough by asking questions to learn about the prospect’s needs. The whole presentation becomes a discussion, or even a debate, about what the prospect needs versus what you are selling, instead of a more compatible discussion that clearly addresses their requirements.
As a result of this, the negotiation and closing takes significantly longer than necessary since there was confusion and misunderstandings when the solution was presented. So it becomes a longer negotiation and a longer and harder close. Finally, because the sales rep is focused on the next deal, he spends little time following up with his new customer. This jeopardizes any future business with the customer since there is no lasting relationship, and therefore no reason for him to purchase from this sales rep again.
This style causes a lot of extra work and failures that are unnecessary and avoidable using a relationship style of selling.
If the focus of the sales rep is on what’s most important for the prospect, then you can see how the time allotments shift significantly in the Relationship style of selling (the Red line). By spending more time up-front with the initial contact and in the qualifying stages, the next steps are more efficient and concise. Credibility was established earlier by showing you cared and had respect for the prospect. Since you clearly learned the prospect’s requirements and understood their problems, you are able to present the right solutions that the prospect understands and can more easily relate to, and agree with. The result is that there is less to object to and negotiate and the close becomes more natural and easier. Because this yields a more positive relationship between the sales rep and the prospect, the follow-up becomes the key to continuing the relationship for future sales.