Let’s play a quick game.
Who’s your insurance agent?
How about your doctor? Your gym instructor? Your air-cond repairman?
Chances are that if you can name any one (or all) of those individuals on that list, then you have a decent friendship going on with them as well.
More importantly, you’d also be going back to them regularly every time you’d want want to make a follow-up purchase (or service).
In many cases, you wouldn’t even have plans to change even if someone new comes along to offer a slightly better deal.
It of course boils down to trust.
As famous motivational guru Zig Ziglar says,
“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.“
And that’s how they won you over, by gaining your trust in the way they treated you.
They viewed you as a friend whom they should support and help. As the friendship grew, the trust between you grew as well, and pretty soon a bond is formed.
It’s the same at work – you may find that THAT’S why more often than not you’d prefer to tell competitors to some of your current vendors that you’re happy with your current vendor – even if they may have been able to give you a better price!
How does this process work? What is is that builds such loyalty in you as a customer? How can you duplicate this with YOUR customers?
Here are six steps to this relationship-based sales process:
- Add value
- Did you know that it costs more than five times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing customer? That in itself should help you understand the value of building a relationship with your customers and turning them into both repeat buyers and spokespeople for your company.
- The best way of course, is to quickly gain credibility and establish yourself as a trusted advisor. Add value to the life of the person you’re engaging, for instance by reaching out with some helpful suggestions, sending them links to relevant content for what they’re looking for, making a valuable introduction to something else you heard them speak about, or anything else that benefits them.
- Learn about the customer’s situation
- Relationship selling is all about building a friendship or relationship and listening to the needs of the person you’re engaging with. Once you’ve built that relationship, shown you care, and earned their trust, you are on the road to making them a customer.
- Knowing their needs and finding out their secret fears (for example, your client may confide to you, “If I can’t make this project work within budget, my boss will probably replace me!”) can help you find solutions for them that are exactly on-target with their needs and build an even stronger relationship.
- With a relationship in place, working out details is a breeze. Those details become obstacles if you don’t have the existing relationship.
- Give personalized recommendations
- Show that you listen. Combine your new knowledge of the person you’ve engaged with together with your subject-matter expertise to deliver your suggestions. For example, you might prescribe a strategy that’ll address one of their core pain points (and happens to align with your product).
- When you show that you honestly listened to their needs, and showed an interest in more than just the business, they will welcome you more. In this context, you will win their business because you go in with a low pressure, open, friendly and honest approach.
- Resolve objections
- To make sure they always look forward to your visits and spread the word about YOUR awesome business, ensure that they always receive good service – make sure to react quickly if they have problems or emergency needs.
- Find a win-win solution
- The worst thing to do is to treat any engagement like a zero-sum game. In other words, if the buyer wins, you lose, or vice versa. This mentality erodes trust and forces everyone to act selfishly.
- The solution is of course to act like a win for the person you’re engaging with as a win for you. Together, you’re trying to find the best possible outcome. Go prepared with several concessions you’re willing to make (like extra implementation help, better payment terms, and so on). Proactively extending these compromises will show that you’re on their side and make them likelier to extend concessions of their own.
- Continue to provide value
- It’s a relationship, not a one-time deal. Don’t disappear once you’ve gotten the cheque or all that you’ve built up has gone to waste.
- Remember, word of mouth referrals are still one of the best ways to make new sales. If A tells B he got a great deal from you at XYZ company, then B is more likely to go to you and also buy (or at least be receptive if you call him to set up an appointment.)
Here’s the most important thing to realise as well – most people react negatively to high pressure sales.
In relationship selling, high pressure is not typically part of the equation, simply because it’s hard to have a friendly relationship with a client who feels pressured by you.
In relationship selling, you become a form of support for your clients. Your services or products become something they depend on, and the more you can suit their needs and make their jobs easier, the better they will respond to additional sales offers.
You’ll also find that relationship selling benefits companies that offer products in very competitive markets – particularly if there isn’t a lot of difference between products!