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Value-Added Selling Part 3

Relationship Selling

In my previous post I discussed selling your company in part two of this five part series on value-added selling. In this post I’ll discuss the importance of building a relationship with your customer by becoming a trusted partner that can help solve their problems.

Today customers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable. They are more skeptical and resistant to spend their hard-earned money. So they do research on what’s available, who the competitors are, the market, pricing options, and anything that will help them make a more informed decision. And sometimes they may know more about your company, your products, your competitors and your market than you do. How? Simple. A little thing called the internet has put a wealth of knowledge into the hands of consumers and businesses. So you have to make sure you know what they know, and even more.

Since purchasers and consumers have all this added knowledge, they have to rely on people who can help them solve their problems. As a result, they will want to look upon you as a problem-solver and planner who they can count on to add value to what they already researched and learned. Therefore, you need to sell VALUE. You do this by becoming a “partner” instead of just a sales rep who is trying to sell them something. A partner helps them understand the benefits and drawbacks of what they are purchasing. They educate them on the value and worth of their investments. And they make sure that their decision truly solves their problems, now and in the future.

In order to do this successfully, you need to develop some relationship selling skills. Most of these skills are easily learned simply by understanding the old versus the new methods of selling. Quite simply, the new way is to make the prospect’s interests your top priority. If you can solve their problems, then the money will follow. The old method of selling is to focus on the sale and your money, regardless of what the prospect needs. Let’s take a look at a comparison of the old and new ways of selling.

In the relationship method of selling, sales reps focus on listening instead of telling. This is very different from the traditional style of selling in which sales reps insist on telling the prospect all about their product without first listening to what the prospect needs – this traditional approach is bound to fail. Additionally, the new way of selling focuses on opening an alliance as the goal instead of closing the deal. The sales rep needs to focus on the long-term benefits of the relationship with their customer, which will yield long-term benefits for the sales rep.

Also, the interview style is how relationship selling succeeds today instead of the pitch, the norm in the old ways. Picture Colombo, the TV detective, asking many, seemingly naïve, questions versus a car salesman on a commercial telling you all about his cars. Relationship sales reps solve customer problems instead of handling customer objections. And, they view the relationship as “we win” instead of “I win”. They also focus on building the relationship with this client instead of selling to the Next client. Relationship sales reps concentrate on the customer’s bottom line instead of just their own. And they try to make the more effective solution-oriented sale instead of a product-oriented sale.

So, if you think or perform like the “traditional” sales method, try changing to a relationship-style of selling. I guarantee that it will make you a more successful sales professional. If you’re not totally convinced that the new way of selling is superior to the old, traditional method, let’s explore this further. One of the reasons the traditional model doesn’t work is because of how much time the sales rep spends in each stage of the sales cycle. If we look at the diagram below, we can see along the bottom the seven steps a sales reps goes through to close a sale. Along the left side we see how much time is spent in each stage.

Starting on the bottom left, we see that a traditional sales style (the dashed line) spends very little time with the initial contact and qualifying steps. As a result, they spend a lot of time, too much time, in the subsequent steps. They spend a lot of time establishing credibility because they didn’t build trust or a relationship early on during the initial contact. They spend way too much time presenting the solution because earlier they did not qualify the prospect well enough by asking questions to learn about the prospect’s needs. The whole presentation becomes a discussion, or even a debate, about what the prospect needs versus what you are selling, instead of a more compatible discussion that clearly addresses their requirements.

As a result of this, the negotiation and closing takes significantly longer than necessary since there was confusion and misunderstanding when the solution was presented. So it becomes a longer negotiation and a longer and harder close. Finally, because the sales rep is focused on the next deal, he spends little time following up with his new customer. This jeopardizes any future business with the customer since there is no lasting relationship, and therefore no reason for him to purchase from this sales rep again.

This style causes a lot of extra work and failures that are unnecessary and avoidable using a relationship style of selling.

If the focus of the sales rep is on what’s most important for the customer, then you can see how the time allotments shift significantly in the relationship style of selling (the solid line). By spending more time up-front with the initial contact and in the qualifying stages, the next steps are more efficient and concise. Credibility was established early on by showing you cared and had respect for the prospect. Since you clearly learned the prospect’s requirements and understood their problems, you are able to present the right solutions that the prospect understands and can more easily relate to, and agree with. The result is that there is less to object to and negotiate, and the close becomes natural progression. Because this yields a more positive relationship between the sales rep and the prospect, the follow-up becomes the key to continuing the relationship for future sales.

In this post, I discussed the value of relationship selling, why it is superior to the traditional selling models, and how to develop a relationship with your prospect. In my next post, I’ll discuss being engaged with your prospect. Not in the matrimonial way, but in the way in which you can engage with their business, their needs, their teams and more.

Until then, make sure you take an honest look at the way you sell. Does it involve some of the traditional styles of selling, or are you building VALUE by being a Relationship Sales Rep? Good luck and good selling!

About the author:
Russ Lombardo, President & Founder of PEAK Sales Consulting, is a nationally recognized Sales and CRM consultant, speaker, trainer, and author. Russ works with sales organizations and management who want to increase their sales results by acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. As a speaker, Russ presents sales training seminars and customer retention workshops as well as keynote and conference speeches to dozens of audiences every year. He is the author of five books on Sales and CRM.

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