Today's post is by LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. Join LaVon and Selling Power for this Webinar on June 3rd, "How to Accurately Qualify Opportunities."
What’s the best way for sellers to build relationships and rapport with prospects and customers these days?
Back in the golden era of selling, you’d walk into a client’s office and desperately search for something on their walls or desk to talk about. The goal was to find something that mattered to them and connect on a more personal level. If you weren’t thrown out, you’d quickly leverage one of your tried-and-true relationship weapons – lunch, golf, dinner, a gift, or even the occasional ride on the corporate jet.
Boy, how things have changed! Besides the governance policies that most companies employ today – where accepting even a coffee mug with your logo on it is a violation – admiring the stuffed swordfish on the wall and asking, “What keeps you up at night?” isn’t going to cut it. The old rules of selling simply no longer apply.
The fact is, today’s business relationships – and all relationships, really – are built on value. Executives want to know what’s in it for them before they will consider investing time in you.
Most executives aren’t interested in golf games or idle chatter that leads to you showing them a 100-plus-slide capabilities presentation. Nor do executives want to train you on their company and issues so you can turn around and try to sell them something.
But don’t lose heart. There are potentially many ways you can deliver value. Consider the following four ideas.
Provide thought leadership around how you might help them improve results or attain certain goals.
Help them achieve recognition in their organization or industry for something they are doing or something you can help them do.
Make key connections and introductions for them.
Support events, programs, committees, or charitable/community organizations that are important to them.
The most successful sales professionals understand that individual human beings – not companies – make decisions to buy. Relationship development is an intentional process that requires you to invest time doing careful research before walking through the door to determine the potential value you can offer. Additionally, it requires continued nurturing. You need to continually ask yourself, “what have I done for them lately?”
Most importantly, building successful relationships requires you to take risks and work outside your comfort zone. Instead of “safe” discussions around your products, features, price, and company, you have to be savvy and brave enough to earn the right to have discussions around personal agendas, what they really want, and the personal motivations that are driving them. Only then can you begin to create bonds based on mutual trust, value, and success.
Business relationships today are oftentimes situational and temporary. They exist as long as the other party believes you still deliver value. Keep in mind that business relationships do not necessarily equal friendships. Just because someone “likes” you, doesn’t mean they will buy from you. Sure, everyone knows your name and smiles when you visit, but when was the last time your “friends” actually bought something from you?
The next time you have an important meeting, think of it as a first date. Don’t make the critical error of talking about yourself, your company, or your products. The harsh reality is that no one cares about you until they understand what you can do for them. Do your homework, leave the logoed mug and your capabilities presentation at home, and (whatever you do) don’t ask about the stuffed fish on the wall!