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Which Came First? The Relationship or the Business?

ImageI have read a lot of sales and marketing tips and articles. Many of them left me wishing I had the last three minutes of my life back. But every now and then, you find one that incites emotion inside of you, whether that emotion be complete disagreement that builds to anger and fury, or happiness that leaves you feeling elated. (Or the third, scarier option, which is that I’m the only person who gets this worked up over the written opinions of others.)

This article is one that incited mainly the former. It proposed that the “we don’t need more relationships” from salespeople. It was important to talk business first to your potential customers. After all, they don’t want a buncha jaw-jackin’ messing up their schedules.

And that’s where I think they went adrift. It’s obvious to everyone (especially salespeople) that no one wants to be sold to. But everyone has an issue they need to be solved. Not everyone needs an outside force to help them solve it, but many do. If it were an easy solution, after all, it probably would have been dealt with. And that’s why salespeople are a necessary evil (no offense to salespeople; I am one myself).  That said, I believe relationship-building is not only a great way to sell, but perhaps the only selling tactic that you should consider.

What are you providing when you only talk business? Straight numbers, facts and hopefully some case studies. But let’s be honest, we live in an era of exponentially saturated markets. Your competition doesn’t live on the other side of town anymore. The Internet has made everything possible with the click of a mouse; you’re competing with people outside of your time zone or country. We can’t all afford to be the cheapest option and we can’t all afford to be the most robust. So how do we get customers to do business with us? Get to know them. Build trust and respect. Develop an authentic relationship. 

What should a salesperson do if they are only there to talk business? Identify the problem, and propose a solution. But how does a company know when to purchase? How does a company know that the salesperson isn’t yanking their proverbial chain? That, my friends, is what is called trust. And you don’t trust damn-near strangers that are talking straight business. You trust people that are forthcoming with you, that champion transparency in their own company values; you trust people who aren’t robots. Why do you think social media brand pages have hinged so much on customer service? Why do you think start-ups are Gen Y’s obsession? Because the corporate machine that spits out factoids isn’t what people want anymore. They want to interact and to trust companies. If you don’t elicit trust in your customers, they’re going to go somewhere else.

Need more proof?

How about all of the organic and natural products that are so popular? Sure, they come with a higher price tag, but they elicit something in the consumer—that wonderful feeling that says, “you’re doing the right thing by choosing this product” and “your chicken was given a vacation option by being cage-free.” We like to feel better about our purchasing habits, even if only for a minute.

Give people more reasons to do business with you.

Talking business is about goals, strategy, pain points and numbers—things that business owners might not be keen on sharing if you have no relationship. Subsequently, it hurts you too because it becomes a game of outworking or outdoing the next company. Let’s say that a salesperson promises a company a sales increase of 4% in the first six months. That’s great! But the next salesperson only has to say that he’ll increase it by 5% to get that customer’s ear. But if the salesperson and business owner have a rapport, an open dialogue and understanding about the business, the customer is probably going to ignore that 5% person because he or she understands that the salesperson with whom they have a relationship is working toward the common goals. It’s more than numbers. In short, a relationship is going to keep you in business for longer.

So how might one establish a relationship before talking business? Give away some advice for free, share resources, start conversations and don’t be all about yourself, your company and the cash. Respect the fact that people have more options now than ever before and be a resource for those in need instead of trying to hard-sell those in need. 


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