It's no secret that top sales professionals possess both strong relationships and deep industry knowledge. But in a down economy, many have found that who they know has a greater impact on their sales success than what they know.
The reality is that in bad economic times, prospects aren't willing to take a chance on new businesses when making purchasing decisions. Instead, they rely on sales professionals with whom they have already established a trusted relationship. Doing so helps mitigate the risks involved with investing limited budgets into an unproven or unknown product or service.
That is why the importance of maintaining solid customer relationships cannot be over-emphasized, particularly in today's market when prospect pipelines are harder to fill no matter how experienced you are. Even if existing customers are not buying, cultivating those relationships ensures that you will be top-of-mind when they are ready to spend. It also increases your chances for referrals.
Of course, maintaining solid connections doesn't absolve you of your responsibility to stay abreast of industry trends. The ability to share information and advise your customers from a position of knowledge is one of the most powerful ways you can continue demonstrating value and solidify your position as a trusted advisor - even when they aren't buying.
Too, the pendulum is swinging, albeit slowly. As the economy recovers, possessing expertise and experience will matter just as much as a having a strong network when it comes to growing sales and generating revenues.
In other words, strong connections may matter the most right now. But enhancing those connections with a solid - and growing - base of knowledge will ensure that you are ahead of the curve when the economy turns.