“The bonds that unite another person to ourself exist only in our mind.” -Marcel Proust
Do you want to sell more? Sure you do. But, the question is, “What prices are you willing to pay for your long-term success?” Are you willing to give up instant gratification? Many sales people are not. Why would you even consider delaying the gratification a sale, especially if you sell on commission? For your sustained selling success, I believe it is infinitely more valuable to your selling career to put off the slippery sale today, for a lifetime customer.
In our western culture, we all want it now. What is the price we pay for this hollow instant happiness? I’ll tell you, it’s the reputation salespeople have in North America. It’s right there next to crooked politicians, fallen clergy and dethroned CEOs. I have a better idea—build a relationship!
In my 17 years of outside sales and 15 years of inside selling, I learned after the first couple that selling is not warfare. Rather, selling is about building relationships. The larger your base of satisfied customers, the greater your annual sales results.
Notice I did not say monthly? If you only look at monthly figures, as too many sales managers and vice presidents of sales are prone to do, you are missing the point. I have worked with too many ignorant sales managers and general managers who were focused only on this week’s or this month’s sales dollars. It was because they worked for a company that was bleeding to death. If your company is healthy, the focus will be yearly and half-decade. If your company is sick, the focus will be daily.
Before I go any further, let me ask you this question: “Is your company healthy?” If not, why are you sticking around? There are plenty of healthy and prosperous businesses, why be a martyr and go down with the ship? If you are working for a healthy company, your company will place a high value on the relationships with its customer. Follow my RELATIONSHIP Model and I guarantee you will be successful in professional selling and loyal customer base. So loyal, that is, that your company will be afraid to ever let you become a victim of reengineering.
R is for Relax.
Relax and be authentic. This is first and foremost; trying to be someone you are not is the kiss of death in relationship building. Even if you think you can fool prospects, you are wrong. The first time maybe, but from then on, they have your number. If you decide to be the best possible you, understand that it is enough. Nobody likes a slippery snake oil salesman!
E is for Excitement.
Be excited about your product and the chance to serve your customers. Think about that monotone teacher you had in high school or college, the one that put you to sleep five minutes into the class. An unexcited salesperson is no different. Why in the world would I want to do business with somebody that does not believe in, and is not excited about his or her products or services? Let me add a caution here: if you act like a 110-volt light bulb hooked up to 220 volts two things will happen to you. First you’ll burn out in a glorious flash and secondly, you’ll be a counterfeit. Being your best includes excitement, but the excitement must be genuine.
L is for Look.
Look your prospects and customers in the eye and thank them for the opportunity to serve. Be happy they came to see you or allowed you to visit them. Today, we live in a fast paced society, even in small town America. People do not have enough time to do all the things the want to. And you, as a salesperson, are asking them for some time, a small piece of their life. Let your prospects and customers know that you appreciate the opportunity to serve them in solving their challenges.
A is for Ask.
Ask plenty of questions that will cause discussion about your customer’s desires and expectations. I’m sure you have heard that a professional salesperson talks only 20% of the time and listens 80%, but the kind of questions that you ask what will really enable you to help them meet their product or service needs. Knowledge is power and you need lots of knowledge to help the highly sophisticated buyer of today. Do not shortchange your prospects by talking too much. If you talk too much, you will be of little value to your customers, and they will have no desire to build a relationship with you.
T is for Talent.
Use your talent to be a showman. Prove how your products will make their life better. Now this is an important key; how it will make THEIR life better, not your life. Get the focus on your prospect and use sizzle to sell the steak, not the hamburger. If you are focused only on YOUR presentation, and how great a showman you are, you will miss the point and most likely the sale. Your customers are not buying the show. Many today, are in pain and do need the show to better help them understand how your product will solve THEIR problems.
I is for Invite.
Invite your customer to hold, touch, feel, ride, test, use or otherwise experience your products. Get them in the act. If they hear, they forget. If they see, they remember. If they experience, they internalize. You want your customers to internalize the value of owning what you sell, don’t you? How many people buy a car before the test drive? Not many! Put it in my hand and I am on the path to emotional ownership. If I emotionally own your product, it will be quite easy for you, the professional salesperson, to ALLOW me to buy it, don’t you think?
O is for Objections.
Objections are really questions. Simply answer their questions. The feel, felt, found method is usually quite effective here. Let’s review the method. When your prospect says “No,” agree with them and show your understanding. Say, “I understand how you feel. Mrs. Jones felt exactly the same way. Although, after she gave it a try, it performed better that I promised and …” Too often when your prospect is saying, “No,” they are really saying, “I need to know more.” If you understand this, you’ll do a better job of answering their questions. Now is the time when all that listening you did earlier pays off. With your knowledge of your customer’s need, you can smoke out the true roadblock to them having what they want. Then you can help them to buy. By doing so, you’ll also add another brick onto the solid long-term relationship you and your company enjoys with that customer.
N is for Now.
Now is time to learn the three great words that will change your life. “Ask for it!” Ask them to buy that which you know they want NOW. What are you afraid of? Perhaps you are afraid that they will like you less for asking? I assure you, they will think less of you, if you do NOT ask them to buy. They will tend to say, “Yes” as not to offend you. You must sell the benefits of your product or service and not rely on the many features. Salespeople that sell features and not benefits hear a lot of “Great presentation” or “You are a great salesperson” as their prospects walk away empty handed. Never ask prospects to buy before you give them several great reasons to do what you desire.
S is for Solve.
Solve unresolved problems, challenges or roadblocks that are keeping your customers from having what they want. This is crucial and usually occurs after one or two trial closes. You now realize there is still some area you did not cover completely, some area you over looked. Somewhere along my sales path, I learned what is called the “doorknob close.” This is helpful when you are at the end of your helping rope, ready to fall into oblivion, the place where lost salespeople end up.
Pack it all up; thank your prospect for their time and attention. As you grab the doorknob to leave, turn the knob. Stop, and turn around, still holding the knob. Ask, “Just for my information, Mr. Smith, why is it you didn’t buy today?” Listen closely—you are about to strike gold. Whatever it is that they say, respond with, “Oh my gosh, I forgot to cover that!” Now, let go of the knob and go back to your prospect and answer their last objection.
H is for Help.
Help them to buy it, ask again. Remember though your real goal is to build a powerful base of satisfied customers, not just make a sell today. Helping is also understanding that it’s possible your prospect may have a reason for not buying today. If you stay focused on the relationship rather than just the sell, you’ll be a long-term success rather than just another hotshot, hooked up to 220 volts, burning the brightest for a very short time.
I is for Inspire.
Inspire your customers to feel really good about their buying decision. When your customer begs you to allow them to buy, or simply says, “I’ll take it,” remember to guard against buyers’ remorse. Inspire them to feel really good about their decision to buy and doing business with you. Remind them, just one more time, what a good choice they made by reviewing all the ways the product or service will make their life better. Inspire them to take full advantage of your product support and customer service programs. Make them feel so good about doing business with you that they will want to tell all their friends about you.
P is for Partner.
Become your customer’s partner in total product/service satisfaction (TPS or TSS). Follow up regularly. Be certain of the value and enjoyment your customers have received from doing business with you and your company. Make certain they feel really good about buying from you 30, 60, 90 days later. Now that you truly have embarked on the path of building a long- term relationship, ask for referrals. Allow your satisfied customers to now help you in your career. Allow them to help their friends in enjoying the really good feelings they have enjoyed. Partners get real leads from their customers, not just the useless lists of names frequently given to pushy salespeople to get rid of them.
In making your deposits into the “Relationship Bank,” you are guaranteed to yield healthy returns. Position yourself as a partner. Be persistent in your selling efforts. Try repeatedly to help your prospects to have all that you know they want. Have patience—I’ve learned that being number two in the minds of your prospects will pay off. Your competitor will blow it someday, as you and I have, and when they do, there you are, ready to take full advantage of the relationship you’ve built. Building relationships does payoff. Not always today, but generally sooner than you think.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.