My husband and I were discussing our workday over dinner on Friday. He shared with me an uncomfortable situation he had with an old school sales guy in his industry. My husband is a talented cabinetmaker and runs a bustling shop in Aurora.
Very often he has sales people who will stop by to try and catch him during the workday to sell trade products like lumber, sheet goods, hardware, shop supplies and tools. Most are pretty respectful of his time and like good sales people pick up on body language and mood when they enter the shop. They can tell if he’s busy working with his team figuring out a project or if he seems open to a discussion.
He’s had a few encounters with a certain sales rep who is pushy and insistent and often makes Simon feel uncomfortable with bold statements like “What can I do to have your business” as he glances around the shop with dollar signs in his eyes.
Even though my husband has told him on a number of occasions that he’s very happy and loyal to his existing supplier, this old school guy keeps pressing and pressing. You have to admire his persistence but his tactics are fruitless. My guess is that he’s barely scraping by with this kind of aggressive sales approach.
What would the conversation look like if instead he asked “What drives you nuts about our industry”? “What do you like most about working with your current vendor”? “I respect your existing vendor relationship however would you consider using us if your current vendor couldn’t pull through on an order for you”?
See how different that conversation would look and feel like? Chances are Simon would be more willing to sit down and talk rather than avoid the man like the plague!
My question to you is how comfortable do you make your prospects? Do you pick up on non-verbal cues like a rushed phone manner and ask if there’s a better time to speak? Do you arrive at a meeting and sense that the person is too distracted to meet that day and offer to reschedule? Or do you push through to make your point so you can count that sales activity for the week?
Trust and comfort are key components to great relationship marketing and sales. It is possible to earn someone’s business and woo them away from the competition. Do so with a humble and soft approach. Ditch the hard sell and awkward moments and pull information from your prospects in a non-threatening way. Build comfort and trust with genuine curiosity of what people really want and add more sales to your bottom line!
So here’s the scoop. Most of us are lead to believe that to grow a business you have to spend a fortune on mass media and engage in cold calling. Or worse, you have to be aggressive, pushy or overbearing to have great sales. Nothing could be further from the truth!
You can absolutely build a killer business without ever having to do these things. The reality is that if you connect with and serve people, you can achieve explosive growth in your business. This means no uncomfortable cold calling!
Instead it means creating bonds with clients by giving them your undivided attention when you are on the phone or meeting in person. It means asking great questions about their business goals and objectives and expressing genuine interest. This warm questioning allows your client to be in the spotlight rather than pitching them your history and services. Think back to a time when someone stormed in to your office offering “the best solution” for your business before they even asked what it was you needed! We’ve all been there. It’s an uncomfortable meeting for both parties!
Now imagine that same individual gave you the opportunity to talk about what you really needed, listened intently and took feverish notes. Then, rather than jumping on a solution asked for some time to consider your unique situation and come up with a solution to fit your needs. This approach builds instant credibility and this is how I would encourage you to approach your client interactions.
Not only will you feel more comfortable and confident in selling situations but your client will react by trusting you as a consultant in turn opening up their minds and wallets!
Great relationships are based on making others feel good which at times requires tact and grace. A mutually beneficial relationship lets both parties feel trust, appreciation and loyalty. Relationships aren’t built overnight and take time to foster and grow.
I feel compelled to share a personal story this week. Over the past four days I’ve been at our national conference. I’ve attended wonderful workshops, seen new products at our tradeshow and have reconnected with some incredible vendors.
One tradeshow vendor, let’s call him “Bob”, pulled me aside and this is how the conversation went:
“Nikki, I didn’t want to leave you a voicemail or email about this because sometimes it just doesn’t come out right” (agreed). He continues to say, “I’ve pitched my product line to your team twice now and you haven’t sent me any business” (Self-interests perhaps?). “Nikki, the reality is that, as I’m sure you can relate as you’re dealing with your customers” (rather assuming) “that if you spent time presenting to a customer and they didn’t buy from you, you would have to invest your time elsewhere. It just makes good business sense”.
Wow! Well once I picked myself up off the floor, I smiled at Bob and thanked him for his time. I assured him that the lack of business on our part wasn’t personal and it was just a case of his line not being time of mind on a day-to-day basis. As I walked away from his booth I felt slighted then sorry for Bob. See what Bob didn’t realize was that our team appreciated his visits. We even included his line along with the other apparel lines we normally share with our clients in a number of proposals. We even did an e-mail blitz shortly after his presentations but as time passed we simply forgot about his company.
As I walked the showroom floor, I thought about how that was a perfect example of how not to build a relationship! We can learn a lot about relationship marketing from Bob. I’m reminded that if a client buys elsewhere the ownership is on me, the sales person. For instance, if I were to walk in to an office of a current client and see that their lobby was filled with two hundred gift baskets and my company didn’t provide them, well I have two choices. I can be tactless, like Bob and get defensive or I can communicate grace and humility. I can recognize that clearly I didn’t communicate to this client that our company offered Christmas baskets. Perhaps they were unaware that this was part of our line in addition to branded office supplies and promotional merchandise. I could remind them just how much I appreciate their patronage and mention that I’d be happy to provide some ideas the next time they’re sourcing out gift baskets. The worst case scenario of course would be to make my client feel guilty for not purchasing from me just like Bob did.