“People do business with people”
We believe that people and the relationships we build with those people are critical for a successful business. People are the core of everything; company performance, competitive advantage, ethics and networking. Unfortunately, too often the basic rule of treating others as you would want to be treated, is forgotten; and more often than not is the root of a relationship’s demise.
The foundations of a healthy relationship
Building strong customer relationships is a consultative sales person’s most important objective. If we consider other relationships; the people we choose as friends are people we like, whose company we enjoy. They are people who are both interesting and interested, people with whom we have found common ground, people we can depend upon and trust. Although we might make an immediate connection with someone, a relationship doesn’t happen instantly, it is developed over time as a result of numerous interactions. I am not suggesting that our relationships with friends are the same as those in business or that we try to befriend our clients and colleagues. The point is, that all successful relationships whether personal or business, are built upon mutual trust and respect and they take time to develop. So how do you start to develop successful business relationships, especially in sales?
The relationship starting point
Just as in a personal context, in a sales situation, the starting point of the relationship is for the customer to believe that you are genuine, that you are interested in them; that you want to understand what their concerns are and what they are trying to achieve. To be able to help them, they must view you as someone who is credible, someone they respect, someone who has the skills and experience to provide them with the right solution to their specific need. Most of all they need to trust you. How is this achieved?
If before you meet you have done some research to learn something about the other person it will be much easier to start the conversation. Before attending a social event you might ask the host to ‘fill you in’ about the other guests, what they do, where they live etc. Preparation in the business context is much more important, it creates an immediate and effective differentiation from potential competition and it will help the consultative sales person demonstrate their sincerity and interest in the customer and effectively engage with them.
When getting to know people socially, we engage with each other by talking. If a relationship is going to develop, people talk to each other not at each other. It is seldom we connect with the person who just talks at us, who never asks us any questions, who just talks about themselves. We connect with people we are able to engage with and part of being engaged is listening.
Listening to what the other person is saying demonstrates sincerity and interest. Active listening enables us to use what they are telling us to steer the conversation. A dialogue begins to flow as a result of listening to what the other person has been saying. In a sales context, especially at the start of the interaction, the consultative sales person lets the customer do most of the talking, far more so than within a social context. In sales, listening attentively is critical for the sales person to learn more about what the customer is thinking. The sales person can then use questions to better understand their needs.
Having listened attentively, the consultative sales person is much better placed to ask pertinent insightful questions. In this way not only does the consultative sales person show they care about what is being said they also learn important information which might enable them to offer solutions when the time is appropriate. The foundation to a healthy business relationship is engaging with the other person, demonstrating a caring, sincere interest in them. Careful preparation, attentive listening and good questioning help to develop the relationship and build trust.
Next time we will look in more detail at this cornerstone of relationships, trust; why it is so critical and what you can do to develop trust with your customer.
We end with one final crucial point: the consultative sales person always remembers selling is not about making a presentation but about starting a conversation. What are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you?