Many moons ago I was competing for a large computer sale against IBM. This sale was ours to lose and we didn’t plan on losing. Our price was lower, our technology was superior, the service levels were better and there would never be any additional fees for upgrading to a larger system. Yet, we lost! How was that possible? The answer had to be that the customer was just plain ignorant! Well, that wasn’t exactly the case. IBM had a relationship with the CEO that had spanned nearly 20 years. Does that really count? You bet it does and please let me explain why relationships trump everything in the world of sales. Let’s look at 2 reasons why relationships are the key to sales success.
But first, let’s look at the definition of “relationship”? It’s the state of being connected. How are we connected to friends, family or business colleagues? We are connected through our emotions. We connect with others by engaging the right side of our brain where our feelings and emotions reside. We connect with people when we discover things we have in common. It’s our values, interests, hobbies, and our views that help us to connect with people who make it easy and are interested in developing a relationship.
1. Your attitude
The first reason customers want to develop a relationship with you is your attitude. I’m sure you’ve heard many times that attitude is everything. Well it’s certainly a huge reason why people will gravitate to you. And interestingly, even in business, attitude usually trumps aptitude. Attitude is critical in having strong emotional intelligence. Customers want to see a positive, can-do attitude in you. They see it in the way you handle the tough questions and objections they might have for you. They see it when you focus on their agenda. In other words they want you to better understand both their needs and who they are. If you’re just there to just make the sale – you’ve already lost them, because the customer can tell. Your attitude is in your control and it affects everything you do and every relationship you have.
2. Your value
The second reason a customer wants a relationship with you is because you add value and help them solve their issues. Most often it’s more about you the person and not your company, unless of course you worked for Enron or WorldCom. It comes down to their confidence in you, which is directly proportional to trust. According to Stephen M. R. Covey in his book- The Speed of Trust, there are two components to trust – character and competence. Both are necessary and you will never have the chance to add value if either of these trust components are missing. Character is your ability to uphold what is right in the eyes of the customer. It’s looking at the right solution at the right price and making sure that the outcome is fair and equitable for both sides. Putting the customer’s needs first is always paramount. Competence is demonstrating that your customers can trust you to solve their problem. Customers expect sales professionals to be the experts in their field and to know what is best for solving their problem. They also expect you to know that they have alternatives, to you, your product or service and even whether to make a purchase at all.
Customers intentionally build relationships with sales professionals that have the right attitude towards them and the right intentions-trusting you will do the right thing. They also expect you to provide value through competence and character.
When you focus on building strong and trust-based relationships, they will trump your products, services and hopefully your competitors-that’s why your customers do business with you.