By Colleen Francis
In sales, the relationship you build with your customer is much like dating: what you start with is something you can make even stronger with time, as long as you work on it!
It’s an ongoing process. As Zig Ziglar wisely observed: “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Growth only happens when you dig deep and ask fundamental questions about the needs of your customer ahead of your own, while expanding your internal customer network to include all buyers, influencers and users of your product.
Doing this communicates three powerful ideas to which all people respond positively: the ideas of being seen, understood and valued.
Organizing yourself for action
My good friend Tim Welch, Managing Director at Grand & Toy, recently shared with me his “high, wide and deep” philosophy of customer relationship management. Year after year, he and his team consistently use this mindset to generate absolutely astonishing sales results.
To build influence with his customers, Tim organizes his sales team so they can take action on two tracks simultaneously. The inside team works directly with the customer’s procurement staff (which in his line of work represents the direct buyer of his products). His outside team, meanwhile, works with decision makers and management.
With each track focusing on the unique needs of the customer, here’s what high, wide and deep entails:
High: Go as high as you possibly can go in an organization where you are connecting with relevant decision makers who can help solve a problem.
Wide: Connect with as many departments as you can possibly reach while staying tightly focused on your goals.
Deep: Foster multiple relationships at many levels within the customer’s organization so that a 3D picture emerges about their specific needs.
Making it happen: steps you can take
Using Tim’s approach, let’s look at achievable actions you can implement in your own business to build better relationships and get the profitable results you’re looking for. (For additional ideas and tools check out Section 4 of my book,Nonstop Sales Boom where we discuss growth at length.)
Influence, not change: Relationship building isn’t about trying to change someone’s personality—who they are, how they govern themselves. Rather, you’re influencing the dynamic of how you connect with someone, as well as their buying choices. Empathy is key. Knowing the buyer’s operation better than the buyer themselves is the best way to cement a deep relationship with someone, because they see you are interested in more than just pushing product:
Watch and measure and connect: Keep an eye on your CRM to observe important changes within your customer’s organization and buying behavior. Just as important: ensure you have more than just a series of one-on-one contacts with the customer. “With our product,” says Tim, “it’s rare to have just one decision maker, but in cases where that happens, it’s crucial that everyone in your team has a relationship with that individual.”
Have a consistent message: This is not as easy as it sounds. The more people you have involved in direct contact with your customer, the greater risk there is for contradictory messages. If you’re casting a wide net, spend time with your staff to ensure everyone is delivering the same message to the customer.
Conduct sharing sessions: Take your best sales reps and sit them down with the rest of your team and have them walk through what they’ve found has worked for them in terms of selling to your buyer. It’s often not the big things but the attention to little details that make the biggest difference. Says Tim: “I have reps who when they visit the buyer will take note of whether that buyer is buying any supplies from a competitor. If they are, they point it out: hey you’re supposed to be buying that from us.”
Leverage social media:
In Tim’s sales team, LinkedIn is an essential social networking tool. He starts by ensuring each team member has a solid profile complemented by a professional headshot photo. Next, he doesn’t put restrictions on how they can use their account. “What ends up happening,” says Tim, “is that it’s very easy for people who are already connected to connect with others. Our sales people become connectors between different departments. It becomes a network that’s centered around our sales rep.”
Remember that Honesty Sells (Really! I even wrote a book on it):Promises made are promises kept. As Tim explains: “we’re very upfront about what we can and cannot do for a buyer. If there’s something we can’t deliver, I tell my reps do not say we can do it.” Honesty and forthrightness are values that customers count on and like all things, they work for you only when met with regular attention.
Colleen is the author of the popular “Nonstop Sales Boom” and “Honesty Sells” books. She has been distinguished as a Certified Sales Professional (C.S.P.), is a past President of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and is a member of the Canadian Speaking Hall of Fame. Sales and Marketing Magazine has called Colleen and Engage Selling:one of the top 5 most effective sales training organizations in the market today!