For the past few years, many so-called sales experts have been saying, “yes.”
In 2016, the argument goes, people are simply too overwhelmed for relationship-based selling to be effective.
What is relationship selling? It’s the theory that customers put so much value in the positive interaction with a company or company representative, that they develop strong feelings of loyalty, which sometimes can be even more powerful than the quality of the product and its price.
It used to be that salespeople were the only true experts when it came to product features and benefits. If you wanted to learn what a product could do for you or your business, you had to sit down with a highly trained sales rep and ask questions. Much of the value that the salesperson provided was in the form of knowledge dispensing. The salesperson was as much a teacher as a deal-maker.
In almost every industry, customers no longer are so dependent upon a salesperson’s knowledge and experience. The internet provides a wide array of product information and all those blunt reviews on social media can provide incredible insight into your products and customer service.
All this easily available product knowledge has sped up the sales cycle and caused buyers to see products and services as mere commodities. At the same time, if you cater to big companies, you are dealing with professional buyers who are growing ever sophisticated in how they “beat up” their vendors on price.
So, does this mean relationship selling is dead? No. People who think relationship selling is dead are dead wrong.
Building strong relationships with clients is still important. People like to have positive and trusting relationships with the people who provide products and services, but you have to build the relationship in a way and at a pace that appeals to them:
1. Value – You must constantly focus on delivering what your customers value without assuming what they value. Only the customer can decide what is valuable to them, not you. Your job is to provide exactly what a customer wants/needs. In general, buyers, both B2B and B2C, tend to care about the same things:
A Typical Buyer’s 8 Key Concerns about a Product or Service:
1. Does it save me money?
2. Does it make me money?
3. Does it reduce my stress?
4. Does it save me time?
5. Is it easy to use?
6. Does it provide security?
7. Does it boost my ego?
8. Does it make me feel good about myself?
2. Trust – We need to build trust quickly and we need to build it rationally one step at a time. With each client, we start at the bottom and work our way up:
Trusting Relationship Ladder
Top Rung – A Signed Deal or Agreement
3rd Rung – Established Trust
2nd Rung – On-Going Relationship
Bottom Rung — Rapport
3. Trusted Advice – Since so much product information is available before prospects even pick up the telephone, the salesperson’s job has changed. Instead of being an all-knowing information provider, successful salespeople are coaches and advisers. They listen carefully to what prospective customers want and then steer them to the best choice.
4. Speed – Because the marketplace is more hyperactive than in years past, you need to move quickly. Prospective customers expect calls to be returned immediately. They expect answers now instead of waiting a couple days for you to get back to them. If you’re a business leader, empower your staff to provide answers as autonomously as possible. Any delay, especially early in the selling cycle, can cause the prospect to drift over to your competitor.
Contrary to popular belief, you could argue that relationships in business are even MORE valuable than they were in the past. While customers have more knowledge and options at their disposal, they’re simultaneously under more stress. The successful seller is the one who constantly delivers client value in a pleasant and stress-free manner.