Think of all the valuable life elements you receive from your personal relationships. Whether with your spouse, your best friend, or your family, good relationships provide you with happiness, security, forgiveness, and support. They make life more satisfying and successful. This is the reason people take time and effort to build strong relationships.
Why would someone take that time and effort to establish relationships in business? The historical model of sales and marketing dictates that a sales person establishes a need, gives a solution, gets an agreement, delivers a promise, and leaves. In the past, that style of service might have been okay. Today’s marketplace demands more.
Today, your prospects have choices and unlimited access to immediate information. Therefore, whether you provide a product or a service, you are a commodity. You might think you are unique, but your prospects can get everything you have to offer somewhere else. By building strong relationships with your clients and prospects, you can separate yourself from the crowd.
Think about it like this: Whom do people buy from? They don’t buy from machines. People buy from people. When people have relationships with other people, they accommodate them and give them an advantage over the competition. In your personal or professional dealings, you buy from people you like, trust, and respect.
Business relationships aren’t that different from personal ones. People listen, have empathy, and do things for each other. They keep their word.
Use the following five steps to build and maintain business relationships.
1. Choose Your Prospects Wisely
If you choose to be authentic in the sales field, you listen and seek solutions that your prospects and clients will accept. You start with a goal to establish a working relationship, getting to know your clients, keeping in close contact, and working with them to satisfy their needs. This is your commitment.
It’s possible that you might choose not to do business with some potentially profitable prospects for one reason or another. They might have different views than you, they might run their business in a manner you don’t agree with, or the person might just rub you the wrong way. But keep in mind, every sales person gets the clients and prospects they deserve.
So, as you approach a new prospect, start by asking yourself if you want to have a virtual roundtables business relationship with that person. If the answer is no, then continue searching for someone else. The smaller your market, the less selective you can be. But in most cases, you can pick and choose.
2. Gather Information
Information gives you the power and opportunity to solve problems and relate to your prospect. Questions are the gateway to information. When you meet with your prospects, start by asking questions. While most good sales people start every meeting with questions, when your goal is to build a relationship, you have to take your questions a step further. You need to include a few noninvasive personal questions as well as your routine business ones
The goal of your questions should be to relate to your prospect. Maybe you’re a golfer and your prospect is also. Or maybe your prospect loves dogs, and you’ve had dogs all your life. These possible interests allow you to relate and build a connection that goes beyond business. Never do this on a false basis, but if you can find common ground, then you are starting to build a relationship.
3. Show a True Interest in Your Prospect
You want your prospects to know that you really care about them and their needs. You can accomplish this by using good listening skills. Listen with your eyes and body. Take notes. Demonstrate that you are listening; you are there for the person and validating his or her needs
If the situation arises, you want to defend your friend/associate. Just as you would defend a friend, if you hear someone speaking poorly about your client, you stop them. Simply saying, “You know, she and I do business together and I’d appreciate you not saying that about her,” will generally end the negative conversation.