Focus on the customer
The clients that work with us on an ongoing basis, do so not just because our solutions have met their needs, but because of the trusted, sales partnership relationship we have established. Wikipedia defines 'partnership’ as follows: “A partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.” The critical point here is the word mutual, a successful partnership is based upon the mutual interests of both parties. What this means in a sales partnership is, that as the sales person, your priority is not what you are selling but understanding what it is that your customer needs.
Understand the customer's concerns and needs
In our business partnerships, from the outset we try to demonstrate that we are vested in our customer’s success and keenly interested in working with them as a sales partner. We build a rapport, we listen with interest and empathy, we ask probing questions about their concerns, we offer advice and we listen more. This approach builds a partnership relationship and allows us to successfully identify and meet our clients’ needs. We focus on understanding things like their areas of business stress, their competitors, their supply channel, their e-commerce and technology positioning, current economic trends, their strategic priorities, their staff concerns, their skill needs, their values and culture.
Prepare and Research - to become a trusted sales partner
Determining client needs is critical to your success. Researching your client before you even meet will provide you with valuable background information. There is a comprehensive list of resources to discover much of this information. The internet, reference sources such as ‘Hoovers’, public company information like annual reports, brochures, advertisements, the press and analysts’ reports, their company’s website, their white papers or newsletters. Their social media presence, maybe they are on Facebook or Linked in. You could subscribe to their RSS Feed, follow them on Twitter, and look at any blogs they have written. These sources provide useful insight about your client’s thinking and culture, aiding your understanding of your client’s business objectives, and who is likely to own these objectives. We try to plan our account strategy based on such analysis. If appropriate we add this research information to our CRM system and update it when we meet with the customer and discover new and relevant information.
Managing the on-going sales partner relationship
Once we have established a solid customer relationship we remain in constant communication, reassessing and reaffirming our understanding of their business situation, their new objectives, the difficulties they face and need to resolve, the opportunities they want to capitalize on. We try to ascertain whether they have new and unique products or services which might give them a competitive advantage over their competitors or conversely whether they might be lacking some type of specialist resource. We analyse potential threats from the competition, demonstrating how we can help them to overcome and combat it. We help them to identify their weaknesses and find solutions to resolve them. We look at their potential to enter new markets, sometimes showing them opportunities, which they have not yet considered. We endeavour to help them prioritize their areas of concern, providing them direction with regards to the order in which they should be addressing these concerns. We work with them as a trusted sales partner.
Show your sales partner that you care
I believe that the single most valuable attribute you can have with new or established customers is to be empathetic. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, think about their business challenges and concerns from their perspective not your own. In my experience this ‘customer first’ approach strengthens the customer business relationship and its likelihood of being maintained and extended. You become viewed as a trusted business partner and advisor rather than just a salesperson. When you succeed in your customer viewing you from this perspective it is you they turn to for advice and solutions. You will be the business sales partner they advocate and recommend and as a result you will become more successful in achieving your business goals, selling more. What has been your experience, I would welcome people’s comments?
People do business with people they trust
Many times when I have been the recipient of a sales presentation my over-riding impression has been that the sales person’s first priority is ‘how can I sell this person on my product or services in their pitch, revealing their scant knowledge about my company, showing little interest in me, my business, or what my issues are.
No matter how potentially valuable their product or service might be, alarm bells start ringing in my head. Do I want to work with this person? Are they going to be able to understand and meet my needs? Without sounding clichéd I, like many other people, do business with people I like and trust. When making this decision, I consider: "is this someone I like and be able to trust?"
To earn trust, treat others as you would like to be treated
Ask yourself "when I am the customer, what does someone do to make me feel comfortable, to want to work with them, to like them and respect them?’"What is often forgotten is that ultimately we are all people, people working together, selling or buying from each other. We all thrive and do much better when treated with sincerity and respect. Sometimes we can get so focused on our goals, our need to impress, to win the sale, to succeed, we don’t actually treat people the way we would like to be treated. When someone shows a genuine interest in me and my business issues, engaging me, talking with me, not to me, I warm to them, I relax and I become more open, I begin to trust them and I often buy from them.
How to become a trusted sales consultant
To show your sincerity and your desire to understand the issues you first need to become well informed about your customer. To do this, do some thorough research so that from the outset you can show a grasp of what your the customer's company does and their role within it. Well prepared questions will show your interest in them and what they are trying to achieve. Let them do the talking and listen attentively. In so doing it is more likely that they will open up and share their concerns, they will begin to like and trust you, making you far better placed to understand their issues and show how you can work with them to resolve them.
Listen and determine your client's needs within the context of their business
Remember too that the customer’s goals are set within the context of a bigger corporate picture, think about"what is this individual trying to achieve within their company’s overall business strategy?" By understanding this you will be better able to provide more effective solutions. So, for example, you might consider whether the organization is focused on expansion, if they seeking out new markets, new locations, who their competitors are and what are they doing to combat that competition.
Determine client's needs and develop trust, long before you attempt to sell anything
In your call planning efforts, try to focus less on articulating the value of what you are selling and more on who you are trying to sell to. Put the customer first, earn their respect and trust by seeking clarity of who they are, what their goals, needs and issues are within the context of their company’s strategy.
Try it and see, years of research and training have shown us and our clients that this approach really works.