Trust has always been the basis of building relationships with prospects. If you are not able to win prospects’ trust then you won’t be able to close deals and create long-term partnerships. Trust, however, is built over time and it requires efforts from both parties. After all, it is well known that:
People buy people, not products.
Salespeople often think that having a better pitch or fancier deck or a more comprehensive objection handling process is the key to close more deals. The reality is, however, very different.
Buyers couldn’t care less about the way your deck looks or how well you can pitch your company. Marketing materials support your activities, they don’t replace them. Prospects receive tons of cold emails and calls on a daily basis with, guess what, a sales pitch about the “leading company in the industry” or “the best solution in the market”. On average buyers receive about 140 emails from different vendors in a day with a “unique selling proposition”. Do yourself (and your prospect) a favor, stop wasting everyone’s time and start focusing on what matters.
Cutting through the noise, as a salesperson, is not simple but there are ways to do it if you are willing to change the way you approach the sales process.
1. Have A Customer-Centric Approach
Too often, salespeople forget that is the buyer the one making the decision. Inexperienced sales reps get too focused on their pitch and stories, forgetting about the most important part of the equation, the customer.
For example, when talking with a prospect, how much time do you spend pitching your company? Or presenting your solutions? Or making assumptions on why the prospect needs you? Or simply not letting the prospect know what’s going to happen? How much time do you hold the mic? It has been shown that in successful calls there are about 77% more speaker switches than in unsuccessful ones.
Stop putting yourself at the center of the conversation. Start listening to your prospects. Ask questions and listen to what they have to say. This is the so-called sales disconnect between sellers and buyers that affects how successful you will be at building relationships with prospects.
Are you sure to be tuned in the same radio station as your buyer?
As a sales rep, your job is to understand the prospect’s needs. Yet, 69% of buyers think that salespeople are not listening to their needs at all. That’s a third of buyers out there thinking you are listening to what they have to say.
2. Be Genuinely Curious
When approaching prospects, salespeople should be genuine interested in their situation and curious about what issues they are experiencing. Trying to be in the prospect’s shoes should be part of your daily activities.
Even though your prospects might all have the same characteristics, each one of them has a different need that has to be addressed differently. Once again, it’s important to listen to what they have to say and stop making assumptions about their needs.
Objections should also arise curiosity in salespeople. Sales reps tend to treat objections as an obstacle to overcome, rather than an opportunity. Sales managers usually prepare their teams with an objection handling document, teaching them the best ways to go through those rough moments without addressing the real issue.
Learning how to turn objections into useful questions is what will make you stand out from the crowd. When a prospect is objecting to your statements take the time to unveil the truth behind those doubts. Don’t run away. If you redirect your curiosity back at the objection, you are in control of the conversation. By doing so, you will increase the possibility to win the prospect’s trust.
3. Understand The Prospect Fit
In a perfect world, companies would like every prospect to be a good customer. The reality, however, is that there are good and bad customers in terms of ROI. Each prospect is driven by a different set of values and needs that might or might not meet the company capabilities to deliver the results wanted.
Closing a deal is not good enough anymore. Some managers think that the more deals you close, the better off your business will be. However, there’s nothing more wrong than that.
What is the cost of having to deal with an unhappy customer? What are the repercussions of on-boarding a prospect, whose needs cannot be met? How much time will your team have to spend on trying to figure out what to do next? And lastly, how easily will you fire that bad client?
The reality is that many businesses tend to accept any client their sales team bring in because they are afraid of missing out an opportunity. The thought that any customer is a good customer is insane and can harm your company growth. The ideal prospect fit is a method developed to take only valuable customer down the funnel with a carefully planned lead qualification process. You cannot please everyone and you better understand that sooner rather than later. Having tougher on-boarding rules will help your company focusing on building relationships with prospects that matter.
4. Be Honest & Work Together With The Prospects
Honesty is probably the last thing that the common person associates with salespeople. Unfortunately, we have built a name for our profession that is not reputable, to say the least. We are known to bend reality and make things look better than they are as far as we can get someone’s money out of their pocket.
If you want to make a difference and create a long-term relationship with prospects, you need to be honest and work together with them. Honesty, however, is not just about saying things as they are.
For example, when a prospect asks you “Why should I choose you instead of a competitor?”, what do you say?
Most salespeople, as they have been trained to such basic objection, will jump on it and start pitching all the different USPs their product, service or company has against all different competitors in the market. However, doing so will just raise barriers from the prospect perspective. As seen previously, by tackling an objection, you won’t be uncovering the real truth.
Have you thought about why the prospect is asking such a question?
If you get asked what makes your company different in the market, be honest and address that with curiosity. Ask them what problems they are currently facing and try to understand why they are asking this question. You might have the best solution or product in the market (for real) but the reality is that you don’t know if that will suit your prospect’s needs. You are assuming that it will and you might be wrong.
Being honest and showing your prospect vulnerability will increase the chances to build trust and long-term partnerships.
5. Become An Expert
Too many times, salespeople make up stuff just because they don’t know what they are talking about. As a consequence, buyers tend to have little trust in sales reps.
Salesforce reported that 79% of buyers want their sales reps to be trusted advisors. Customers are looking for consultants. Building relationships with prospects is a lot like personal relationships. Buyers are looking for a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand!
Together with this finding, it has been shown that buyers want more than just a sales counterpart. As a sales rep, you need to know the ins and outs of your product or service offerings and understand the market. All of this can be achieved only by becoming an expert in your field.
Depending on the industry you operate in, it might be easier to stand out if you know just a little bit better than your competitors the market and how things work for your potential customers.
Invest time in researching the market. Schedule personal development time during your working day to learn about what’s going in the industry. Organize with your team “discussion times” to share knowledge and build confidence. Lastly, connect more often with people within the organization who could help you get a higher than average understanding of what your product USPs are.
6. Follow Your Values As A Person
At the beginning of this article, I wrote that “People buy people, not products”. This means that you need to related to your buyers as a person. In sales, you are quite often told to avoid talking about personal things with prospects as “things could get messy”. You might not want to get involved in political talks. However, keeping a distance with your counterpart will not benefit anyone in building a long-term relationship.
The best salespersons I have met during my career are those who are able to connect with prospects just about anything. Understanding that who you have in front is not only a buyer but also a person, it’s crucial to how successful you will be. Get to know them and share a genuine interest in opening up yourself.
In-person communication is crucial to building truthful relationships. I often see too many salespeople spending so much time in front of the laptop or on the phone, ignoring the value that in-person meetings have. In case geographical limitations don’t allow you to visit prospects with flexibility, have a weekly catch up with prospects that are the most valuable to you.
Sales is a challenging but crucial role in any organization. As industries evolve, so do buyers. Salespeople need to adapt to changes and move away from old tricks. In today’s environment, prospects rely on salespeople who are trustworthy and know what they are talking about. Don’t get stacked with the average Joe. You can’t control the product delivery or other people’s behaviours or market conditions, however, you can control what you do and what you stand for.