People love to buy but they HATE to be sold to. It seems that the general public has a fairly negative attitude about sales, and salespeople. I recommend that, as a business professional, you reframe any beliefs you may have about selling and look at it as building relationships. I learned to do this a long time ago.
My history with selling began when I was 10-years old. I had lemonade stands in my neighborhood and sold old comic books, too. When I was 12, I sold chocolate bars for school fundraisers. I was selling reflective house numbers when I was 15-years old, and I worked in retail stores when I was 17. Then, in my mid-20’s, I started a consulting business. Guess what? I spent about a third of my time doing sales. Ironically, one of my early clients hired me to train his sales force on cold calling. Yep, I trained all of their salespeople how to do effective cold calls. By the way, this was long before I started BNI®.
Prior to starting my consulting business, I was in my first management position working for private industry and that is where I got my first inkling about the power of building relationships. One day my boss wasn’t there to talk about the day’s assignments, so I went around to people and asked, “How can I help you?” This simple question was received quite favorably. I was able to build relationships with the people on my team by offering to help them and learning what it was that they needed most from me.
Later, I discovered that this approach worked incredibly well in “selling my consulting services”. I looked to find ways to help people – even if it meant NOT selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach, rather than selling, was a way to build my credibility as a caring businessperson and it brought people back to me later when they had a need. I became a connector, someone who connected them to the person or company who could help them solve their problems.
As the late Jay Conrad Levinson said, nothing develops personal relationships better than personal connection. The best way to connect with someone is to show a genuine interest in them, ask questions, and LISTEN.
Remember, S-I-L-E-N-T is an anagram for listen.
Asking questions helps you uncover people’s problems.
Attentive listening helps you identify their needs and concerns.
As sales communication expert Andy Bounds says, “The prospect really only cares about his or her own present and future, whereas most presentations focus on the seller’s past and product features.” He reminds us that “Customers don’t care what you do; they care about what they’re left with AFTER you’ve done it.” Andy uses the word “after” to maintain the focus on the client’s needs, keeping it personal by asking questions such as “What are you looking to achieve after our work together?”
The personal connections we make help build trust. The one thing that customers have always rated highest in the sales world is trust. When you build relationships with prospective clients that are focused on the buyer’s perspective, they trust that you genuinely care about them. Remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.
In my book, Masters of Sales, Susan RoAne shares the story about a bank that engaged her to speak with its managers about how to “work a room.” She interviewed the top salesperson who had won the award for the previous four years. She was surprised when they told her, “Yes, I won the award. But I don’t ‘sell’ anything.”
They went on to explain, “I chat with my customers at bank-sponsored events and when they come into the bank. When I see them in the community, we always take a moment to talk and catch up. I get to know them, and I let them get to know me, so they know I am a real person and not just a bank employee selling them a service. When I call with a new product, they take my conversation seriously, knowing that I don’t waste their time on something they don’t need.”
That story is an excellent example of building trusted relationships through personal connections. The top salesperson earned the title without ‘selling.’
People prefer to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. They really do want a solution for their problem, they just don’t want to be sold to. Make the potential customer feel valued and comfortable. Provide them with a great experience. Focus on building relationships, rather than just making a sale. It is so simple, but not easy.
How do YOU build relationships with your customers and clients?