Sales people are always told to pursue relationships as a means of securing buyers, clients, and building trust. While I may not always agree with the order or sequence of these, they are the right ingredients, how you mix them, then cook them up and serve them will directly impact the perception of your buyer, and their willingness to consume or buy what you are dishing..
I have always believed that there is a lot of selling that can be done before you actually have a relationship (at least one worth anything to speak of), so why wait. In fact if you were to break down the elements of “relationship” or trust sellers strive for, you’ll find that a common element in both, namely respect. You can gain the respect a lot sooner than achieving a full and mutually beneficial and balanced relationship, which you can then use as a platform for building and accelerating, and solidifying said relationship.
Gaining and giving respect is easier to deal with early in the association, and can deliver sales as you work your way up the chain. Let’s be clear, I think that there is a lot of selling and revenue that can be achieved long before you have a relationship, and those who tell otherwise are wrong, and costing you sales, and let’s not forget, we are paid to drive sales, not relationships; after a point, selling to someone you have a relationship with becomes easier for all involved.
But many confuse respect with taking a subservient a diminutive stance, nothing can be further from the truth. If you are going to lead someone to a decision, you need to lead, not follow. You goal should be to have at minimum a peer-to-peer connection with your buyer. This involves accepting the role of being a subject matter expert, much less a product expert.
Many sales people don’t do as well as they can when they take on the role of product expert. Buyers by products for the impact those products deliver, not for how the product works. Sure a technology leader may be impressed by your gizmo’s capabilities, how it was developed, and how it is put together; but if it does not address their ability to move them close to their objectives, they will not buy. Being a subject matter expert allows you, no forces you, to go beyond product, to impact, and with that confidence, you can have that peer-to-peer discussion, allowing you to test the buyer’s view and preconceptions, and point to solutions that actually move them towards their stated objective, or a times to rethink and restate objective.
With virtually no difference in many category leaders, the key differentiator is the way you sell. Product sellers get caught in the daily discussions with how they need this or that if they are going to compete. You’ve all heard it at sales meetings, “if only we had this”, “if only it could do that”, “if it only came in red.” You may think you are not bringing that into meetings, but you are, and your buyer senses it. But if you went in as a subject matter expert, ready to help them move forward, you would not get bogged down in product based discussions, even if it does not come in red.
So, respect your buyer, yourself, and your task, to generate revenue for your company buy helping your buyer achieve their objectives. Your buyer will respect that long before they have a “relationship” with you.