Think you know how to sell? You might want to double check. These days, customers want you to listen more, discover more about them, and display more authenticity in your approach. The world of sales strategy has drastically evolved over the last decade, making many of the old school methods worn-out and ineffective. But you still need to meet your quota and close new customers while retaining the current ones. What’s the answer?
A bold style that transforms your business AND keeps the stakeholders happy.
Yes, this is all about relationship selling, but not in the way you’ve traditionally been taught. You’ve been saturated with data from thousands of sales gurus telling you about buyer personas and sales cycle trends and touting all the relationship selling “tactics” you should master. But let’s talk about the real elements of relationship selling that customers expect from you.
What is Relationship Selling?
You’ve heard it all before: build relationships with your customers. And the jargon used is “target market” and “networking” and creating trust” when describing how to go about it. This includes “techniques” such as finding common ground with your customers (glorified stalking), listening (duh), and showing authenticity by being honest (does this really need to be mentioned?).
It’s amazing that as salespeople, we really do not approach the sales process with these components inherently as the forward focus. What are we usually focused on? The sale.
That’s what we’ve been programmed to value as the winning ticket to our success. CEOs want to know the numbers, not whether our customers are actually happy. But in today’s market, companies need to tear down the old business model and cultivate a new way in order to really demonstrate authenticity and remain relevant to the fresh breed of customers who expect and demand more.
So, what truly is relationship selling now?
Care. Real, genuine care for the person on the other end of the conversation. Revolutionary, I know! But it’s true. People just want to know that you sincerely want to help them. They want a human interaction, whether they move forward to buy or not.
This means taking the time to view situations from their perspective and finding solutions that benefit everyone involved, not just you. Ask questions. Get to know your customer. Treat them like your best friend. Be patient and kind. Find out about the challenges they face. Display authenticity.
This can take a lot of work. You’ll have to want to know what your customers’ needs are, find out the best way to talk to them, and then ultimately demonstrate to them that you really want the best for them, even if this means not making your quota. You have to take a lot of time to nurture, communicate, and give constant attention.
the bottom line is this: by caring about building relationships with customers
and taking an interest in their world, you will significantly improve the odds
of securing a sale and retaining that customer for the long term. And that will
ultimately satisfy the number-crunchers who are standing over you at sales
meetings. Want proof? Look at the data.
Why Does Authenticity Matter?
So, okay, we all know that there are certain things we should be doing to get the sale. Yeah, yeah, listen and act like we care. But does it really matter?
Let’s check out the statistics for B2B business according to Gallop:
- 68% of customers are lost because of indifference or perceived apathy
- Only 46% of customers said vendors deliver on what was promised
And here’s one from The Annuitas Group:
- Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads
And from Biznology:
- Today’s sales process takes 22% longer than 5 years ago
You can’t just use the same stale strategies that you did even five years ago. Things have changed. Being real and showing an honest authenticity in more than the sale is crucial to business. Building a rapport with customers and really caring makes a huge difference. If customers feel there is a lack of enthusiasm, they may feel like they are just a number. Or worse, they may not view you as a trustworthy person, especially if you aren’t delivering on things you previously agreed upon.
Of course, this hurts you in the short term: when it comes to signing a contract, if they feel you don’t care, it’s easier for them to choose a competitor.
But what about the long term? If they are a current customer and they leave, now you don’t have the opportunity to upsell them. And your word of mouth may get bruised as well. Additionally, with the penetration of social media and online reviews, people are only a click away from generating a bad reputation about you and your company. Yikes.
Authenticity: The New Way to Sell
Customers are thirsty for authenticity and honest engagement today. It is vital that we as sales professionals have the ability to think about the sale in innovative ways. It’s not about the result. It’s about the human on the other end. Therefore, we need to transform sales teams from a result-selling approach to a care-based approach.
This is a challenge and opportunity for us. Even the most experienced customer can have old-fashioned beliefs and buying behaviors based on prior experiences that are not applicable in today’s marketplace. But the speed of technology, communication, and globalization means that many customers are on a new track to making buying decisions, and they are demanding that we convey credibility, knowledge, authenticity, and the ability to communicate value.
This involves striking the right balance of communication. Telling great stories, not cut and paste scripts. Talking less, forgetting your “pitch,” and actually engaging more in listening. Keep your word. Be yourself. Essentially, build a friendship. How would you treat someone you truly care about?
if you love the product or services and the company you work for, being genuine
should come naturally without a need to “pretend.” Of course, as a salesperson,
you won’t have all the answers and may make mistakes, but if you are being
yourself and act like a normal human being, you’ll be treated with more
Overall, demonstrating authenticity and building positive relationships is the key to making everyone happy: your customer, your CEO, and you. Because in the end, you will close the deal, retain current customers, get referrals, build a solid reputation, and make your quota.