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Andy Rich | BizDev3.0 | Philadelphia, PA

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Are “Relationships” really relevant to the sales profession?

For every salesperson who says, “I have a great relationship with that prospect/client,” how many of those prospects/clients would actually agree?”

For any salesperson who has been in the same position for less than two years, what is the average number of opportunities lost with prospects/clients with whom they’ve had good relationships? 

Since it takes time to build sustainable relationships, companies obviously wouldn’t expect a salesperson to sell anything for the first several months, or even years, right?

Clearly, there’s more to selling than relationships.  Agreed? 

Whether a one-time $10 purchase or a multi-million dollar 10-year investment, many (if not most) decisions are impacted by factors other than the relationships between the buyer and seller.  

Every day, somewhere in the universe, a newly hired salesperson is closing an account that was previously never infiltrated by the predecessor who had a longstanding relationship. 

So, let’s agree that, while relationships aren’t a “bad” thing, they aren’t necessarily critical to the sales process – in fact, they don’t have a formal place in any sales process. 

Instead, let’s ask the question:  What form of Bonding & Rapport is critical to the sales process, regardless of how simple or complex the process? 

The answer:  Trust

Reality check:  When our compensation is determined by how fast and often we can qualify prospects, we need to reach a significant level of trust as quickly as possible. 

At Sandler, we offer many concepts for consideration regarding building trust – most importantly, we coach our clients to stop acting like salespeople.  Newton’s 3rd Law (Yes, I’m referencing physics in a sales conversation) states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Perhaps this explains why prospects push back when salespeople push their agenda? 

Based upon similar concepts of negative reverse psychology, we coach clients to guide prospects on a path of their own self-discovery, using strategically executed questions.  Hence, my favorite Sandler Rule: “People don’t argue with their own data.”  Using technical knowledge and industry experience to ask the right questions, at the right time, places the salesperson in the position of Trusted Resource

A similar technique, especially effective for establishing trust from the very start of the sales process, is for salespeople to say something that is not in their own self-interest.  More specifically, let the prospect/client know that 1) if you don’t feel this is a good fit, you’d appreciate having permission to say so (Yes, a salesperson can say “No.”), and 2) you’d appreciate them extending you the same courtesy (Yes, it’s okay for prospects to say “No.”).

Having trouble getting “Ghosted”?  Perhaps your prospects are afraid to tell you “no”?  When you make it clear to a prospect that you’re okay with a “No”, you are creating an environment of transparency and trust – increasing the odds they’ll share their true thoughts and feelings. 

Lastly, it’s a generally accepted truth that people like people who remind them of themselves, and people trust people they like.  From the first second of contact, a professional salesperson has A) sensitivity to the personality of their prospect, B) a heightened level of self-awareness and, C) the ability to make adjustments in real time (i.e. Speed Up vs. Slow Down, Get Detailed vs. Give Summary, etc.).  Taking on the role of adjusting behavior to create an environment of likability and trust is one of many things that makes sales is a highly skilled profession.

In short, relationships should happen organically, and it shouldn’t be the self-imposed burden or expectation of salespeople to build them with prospects.  Instead, professional salespeople can simply create an atmosphere of trust from the very start of the sales process.  


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