Published in Sales and Service Excellence
Are you having trouble sealing the deal with your prospects? Building long-term client relationships is like building a bridge. You don’t see the foundation of the bridge, because most of it’s not just under water, but also underground. If there are cracks in or structural issues with the foundation, the bridge can collapse. The foundation needs maintenance, just like the foundations of your sales career. To build your foundation and bridge with your clients, take six steps:
1. Start right. Make a good first impression. Your first meeting with a client is vital. You’re there to sell two things—your company’s products or services, and yourself. Customers won’t buy unless you can convince them of the value of both.
2. Create a common bond. Since people buy from people they like and trust, seek to create a common bond with the other person. When you are in the prospect’s office, take stock of what’s around you to understand their working style, personality and values. Use memorabilia, pictures, diplomas, trophies, or awards as hints to figure out what you have in common.
3. Talk in terms of their interests and values.Once one of my salespeople came to me with a problem. He’d been calling ona major pet supply company for some time, with no success. “The manager, a nice guy, likes to see me, but I never get any orders.” I went with him on his next call and saw that the manager’s office had a fish tank. The space was filled with antique fishing gear, pictures of fishing, stuffed fish and books about fishing. My salesperson was an avid fisherman himself—yet never talked about fishing. So, I suggested: “Send the prospect an e-mail thanking him for the meeting, and say that we’d like to work with his company. Mention your mutual interest in fishing, and lend him a book from your collection on bass fishing.” That was the start of a great friendship, and the pet supply company became a major customer.
Clues to the person’s interests and values aren’t always obvious, but with practice you’ll learn to pick them up.
4. Show how you can help them achieve their goals. As part of your discovery, tour the company’s premises. Show interest in what their company does, and you’ll pick up clues about how best to help them achieve their goals and what’s important in making the business relationship work. Offer a tour of your own company’s operations as well, so the other person gets to understand what you and your company are all about.
5. Be proactive, even when you’re not on a sales call. Develop wide interests. Be able to play a sport and be informed about sports in your area. Sports tend to indicate personality. Tennis players tend to be competitive and like to win, they appreciate a strong opponent. Fishing enthusiasts study a situation, make their plans, drop their lure in the right place, and wait. If prospects participate in team sports like hockey or basketball, they likely value a team approach. So, express yourself in team terms. Say, “We’ll do this.” Also, know what topics to stay away from in conversation (usually religion and politics).
6. Soon after each meeting, take time to put new ideas and information in writing. Do it while the meeting details are fresh in your mind. Note areas you have in common, indicate what about the call was positive and what was negative. That way you’ll be in position to build a good relationship in the future.
Use these tips to attract and keep clients for the long term with a mutually beneficial working relationship.
Steve Gareau is the author of “Building Your Bridge to Sales Success” available at amazon.com. With more than 40 years of entrepreneurial and small business experience, Steve now works as a consultant, speaker, and business mentor. Visit Steve’s website at www.bridgeseriesbooks.com.