At a past Sales Leadership Conference, during a private dinner organized for all speakers, we discussed sales relationships. While everyone there agreed that relationships are vital to creating sales, the consensus was that there is no formal body of knowledge that explains how relationships are formed, what makes them grow, what causes them to fizzle, and what leads to the creation of value. One speaker called relationships “the soul of business.” Below is a summary of the excellent ideas – and there was no shortage of them – shared by 18 sales leaders who continually contribute to the selling profession.
1. Good salespeople bring positive energy to a relationship. We can choose to be energy givers or energy takers.
2. Trust hinges on the willingness to deliver on promises. Once trust is lost, relationships cannot survive.
3. A relationship’s value depends on the customer’s perception of value, not on the salesperson’s definition of value.
4. To the customer, the top value drivers are integrity, authenticity, and consistency.
5. Effective relationship builders are willing to listen to better understand customer challenges. They ask questions that lead to consultative conversations, which open doors to greater opportunities.
6. The salesperson’s courage to resolve the difficult situations customers face enhances relationships. One speaker called this “the ability to put oneself in harm’s way.”
7. The quality of the relationship with the customer is determined by the quality of the relationship between the sales manager and salesperson. Sales managers exemplify a company’s corporate culture.
8. Relationships are enhanced by the salesperson’s ability to communicate in compelling and creative ways. One sales leader explained how he uses video email prior to a customer visit and follows up with a video email immediately after the call. Video email is six times more effective than standard email.
9. Relationships demand a long-term investment. Without it, there is no ROI. One of the speakers shared that “there is no return on ignoring [the customer].”
10. There is a difference between a transaction and a relationship. Transactions create one-time value; relationships create long-term value and a stable business foundation.
11. Relationships grow through differentiation and the willingness to contribute beyond what is expected. “There is no traffic jam on the extra mile,” commented another speaker.
12. Good salespeople use smart social-media strategies to enhance customer relationships. They make it their business to stay connected to their customers through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.