How important are relationships when selling a product or service? A salesperson can compete based on product, price and service but still lose the sale because of the relationship between the customer and a competitor’s salesperson. Consequently, it’s no real surprise that people prefer to buy from people they know, like and trust.
Your likeability and ability to form strong relationships quickly will be far more effective for increasing sales than all the world’s credentials or even having the lowest price. For this reason, in this article, we’ll be discussing why relationship-selling is essential for increasing sales. As well as key relationship selling techniques, the importance of partnering relationships and how to get referrals in sales.
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- Sales Methodologies: A Comparison of 16 Essential Approaches
- The Secret To Getting Ahead When Responding To RFPs
What is relationship selling?
With the increased competition and greater product and service complexity of today’s marketplace, there is a need to adopt a relationship strategy that emphasizes the lifetime customer. Instead of viewing prospects as transactional customers that you sell to once, you need to view them as partners in a long-term selling relationship.
What does the term relationship selling mean? Relationship selling is a sales technique built on the foundation of using relationships to close sales. Furthermore, relationship selling is most favourable in purchases that involve long sales cycles or high ticket items.
Why is a relationship strategy important in sales?
The social norm of reciprocity is the expectation that people will respond to each other in similar ways. For example, people will respond to you helping them with equal benevolence of their own. Therefore, the importance of implementing a sales relationship strategy lies in the fact you need these people’s support to help you reach your goals that may have been otherwise out of reach.
Relationship Selling Vs. Other Sales Approaches
Now you know exactly what Relationship Selling is, check out these other established sales approaches for comparison.
Transactional selling is a total hands-off sales strategy that focuses solely on making a quick sale with no prioritising of learning the customer’s actual pain and how their product can solve that pain.
The Challenger Salesperson
The Challenger Sales Rep excels at adopting unique perspectives when it comes to creating solutions for existing problems. They’re a pioneer of pushing the status quo whilst possessing the ability to get potential customers excited about these new possibilities. Simultaneously, the Challenger Sales Rep can promote their products as the ideal innovative solutions to these problems.
Solution Selling is a sales approach that came along to replace old ‘Product Selling’ practices. It’s a sales process that focuses on selling the solution to the prospect’s problem instead of just focusing on selling the product. Solution Selling sells the ‘solution’ instead of the ‘product’.
Consultative selling is a term that we hear a lot, and I want to share with you, well, what exactly is consultative selling, and how can you do it? I’m going to share with you some do’s and don’ts around consultative selling. However, the problem with consultative selling is that it’s likely to be perceived as too passive. Consequently, it gives too much control to the prospect and not enough to the salesperson.
Examples of Relationship Selling Strategies
When I’m speaking with an organization about delivering sales training and coaching, I discuss not only the date of the upcoming training for their sales team but also how I can partner with them to help all the sales teams and their various offices around the world, throughout the year and in years to come.
Partnering is a strategically developed, long-term relationship that focuses on solving the customers’ buying problems. Partnering is the highest quality selling relationship.
However, you should note that there are three keys to a partnering relationship:
- The relationship has been born on shared values.
- Everyone clearly understands the purpose of the partnership and is committed to the vision.
- The role of the salesperson moves from selling to supporting. Therefore, by demonstrating how you can help your customers solve their problems, you will never sell another day in your life.
Why are referrals important in sales? Well, the great thing about referrals is that they don’t cost anything, and they come with a high level of trust built-in. For this reason, referrals also carry a high degree of credibility.
While most business people and salespeople say they would prefer to receive customers through word of mouth, many haven’t created a strategy around getting referrals. So they end up waiting by the phone or checking their email in hopes of getting referral business. However, hope is not a strategy.
So what can you do right away to get more referrals? Ask your current and former clients, as well as prospects who turned you down. Now, you might be wondering why I’m telling you to ask prospects who turned down the opportunity to work with you.
Well, they may have declined to hire you for any number of reasons—perhaps they couldn’t afford you, didn’t have the budget at the time, or maybe the timing just wasn’t right for them to proceed. Perhaps even their priorities changed, but they could still see value in what you offer despite this. Why is this important? They may know relevant companies that actually can move forward with you and benefit from your services.
How To Ask For Referrals
Part of developing your relationship selling strategy to increase sales is sensing the right timing. No one likes to be surprised or put in an uncomfortable position by being asked aggressively for referrals. It’s helpful to set the stage during your initial conversations or meetings with prospects to let them know what to expect. Try saying something like,
“Now that you are looking into our services, you’ll probably start noticing a lot of other businesses that could benefit from this sort of service. In the same way that you came to my business through a referral from a good friend of yours, I would like to ask you from time to time if you know of two or three people who could benefit from my service. Would that be all right with you?”
That sets the stage early -and you may even receive a couple of referrals right away!
Then be sure, as you’re working with them in the weeks and months that follow, to ask them again if they know of two or three people who could benefit from your service. It’s especially effective to ask for referral sales after a customer has had something nice to say about how you have helped them. Tell them you’re happy to hear that, and then pop the question.
Tips for developing your sales relationship strategy
1. Practice Social Selling
Social selling is a sales strategy in itself, but it ties in exceptionally well with a sales relationship strategy. Think about it, B2B sales cycles are often long, so why not continue to build your sales relationship online? Furthermore, if you consider that 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to make purchasing decisions – it’s a no-brainer.
2. Keep every promise you make
For your sales relationship strategy to work, you need to keep the promises you make. Because unfortunately, the minute you break a promise, or worse – don’t deliver on something you said you would, you’re going to damage your reputation.
3. Practice active listening
Active listening is usually the golden rule of consultative selling; however, in general, it’s a good business and interpersonal skill to have. Ultimately, it’s more important to be interested than to be interesting. Stop focusing on trying to sell and concentrate on being an active listener.
By expressing genuine interest in the person in front of you, you’re making them feel valued, will build trust quickly, and naturally creates a real personal connection.
As the conversation progresses, you’ll find that you have common goals, different ways in which you could help each other, or even help your business with a specific need.
So, how can you become an active listener and steer clear of the egocentric personality of that guy?
Techniques for improving active-listening skills
Here are our favourite techniques for consciously improving your active listening techniques:
- When it’s your turn to respond, make sure you reply with something they’ve said. It’ll prove that you’re listening and engaged.
- Turn off your phone. Forget you even have a phone (unless it’s to take down someone’s details, obviously). While technology has revolutionized communication; nobody wants to engage with a cellphone zombie; engage with the people in front of you.
- Maintain steady eye-contact; probably the easiest way to show interest and engagement with someone you’ve just met.
This article originally appeared in the January – March 2012 issue of The Singapore Marketer
Build Stronger Relationships with SOCO/
Let’s face it. Relationships always add value.
As the saying goes: people buy from people they know, like, and trust. Meaning y our ability to form strong relationships quickly will be more effective than all the credentials in the world or even having the lowest price.
In the Sales Accelerator pack, we include the skills all sales professionals and small business owners need to be effective in sales, including our Relationship Selling certification, where you’ll learn how to:
- Quickly build rapport with customers
- Deal with different types of personalities
- Increase repeat business
- Build lasting relationships
- Get more testimonials and referrals