People buy from people. Even in the digital age, this much holds true.
No matter how much we tell ourselves that our purchasing decisions are based on a purely objective assessment of things like quality, cost and how closely something matches our requirements, the things we choose to buy are hugely influenced by who is selling them to us and how we connect with that person.
At this point, you might well be rolling your eyes and wondering when I’m going to tell you something new. Because, of course, any half decent salesperson knows this instinctively. They know they need to be confident and charming and accommodating. They know that their commission depends on whether they are well-liked by their client base and can strike a rapport with a new prospect in person or over the phone.
But is this enough?
Getting someone to like you is not the same as getting them to trust you. I’m sure you have plenty of friends who are awesome people, but you’d never dream of letting near your business or your boss.
Likeability is an asset but it’s not a sales strategy. It can do wonders in helping you secure an initial meeting, but is it going to mean you’re guaranteed a place at the table in the months and years to come? Does it even mean you’re a shoe-in to close the deal? Unfortunately not.
If you want to build a lucrative long-term professional relationship with your client, you need them to think of you almost as an extension of their own business. You need them to think of you as a trusted adviser that they can rely on to interpret their business needs, come up with solutions and approaches that will boost their bottom line and help them work toward their goals and an organisation.
They need to feel that you know your stuff and that you’re in it for the long haul.
There’s no quick fix to establishing credibility and trust. If you’re going to make this the corner of your sales strategy for 2016, as indeed you should, you’ll have to step up to the challenge.
There are three steps to getting this right.
First, you need to make sure you’re really educating yourself about your clients’ business sector and needs. You need to become an absolute expert on the subject matter.
Second, you need to focus on what your client is getting out of the interaction. Look for the areas of mutual benefit. Imagine that you’re part of their team and behave like it. What are they really trying to achieve, on a wider scale? How are they going to get there, step by step? What insights and value can you add that would help them them to do it better, cheaper, faster, more efficiently?
Don’t think of the end goal as the sale of product or service. Get into the habit of making their end goals your end goals, and then providing the tools and strategic thinking that can help them to get there.
Thirdly, never, ever give into the temptation to push hard for a sale that you don’t genuinely think is right for that client. It might bring you short term gain, but if things don’t work out for that customer, if they don’t get the value they were hoping for or they leave the conversation feeling strong-armed into doing something they’re unsure about, they will blame you for it. Your hard-earned trust will be squandered and they may never give you the opportunity again.
This is not something you can fake. You need to really, really care about supporting your clients to meet their objectives. You need to care about what they care about. Only then will you go beyond being the nice guys they quite like buying from to being an indispensable asset that they trust to guide them on business matters now, and well into the future.