As sales as a science evolves, there has been a lot of writing of what is important, and what are the factors that increase your chances, not only of closing deals, but of succeeding in the wider context.
A polemic topic of discussion in every sales team or organization I’ve collaborated with, is the idea that building a relationship is more important than the solution you are selling, or vice versa, that the solution your company sells is what primes over building a relationship.
Being a fundamental idea that strategically defines the way you communicate and interact, and moreover, defines “what good looks like” (i.e. success metrics) it is worth to dwell on it a bit.
What I’ve found is that, generally, sales people, and sales managers tilt to one side or the other and embed this preference in both strategy and execution. Doing this surely helps qualifying and moving forward in the sales cycle, but quite surely, will hinder other instances. What to do then?
The truth of the matter is that none is the most important one all the times. Thinking one strategy works all the time is running on the auto-pilot: exactly the opposite of contextual selling, and being customer centric.
Secondly, taking the approach of performing based on our preference, as opposed to what is the preference of the buyer is exactly the opposite of contextual selling, and being customer centric.
The premise here is that, if our preference is to process information or relate to others in a specific way, our tendency will be to both present the information, and try to relate to others in terms or our code. This does not work well, and this is the reason we don’t “click” with some people, especially in a buying/selling scenario.
If you have seen yourself performing this way, psychology has to terms to define it: apathy, the literal opposite of empathy, or being unempathetic, that is, lacking empathy.
Some would say this is extremely important, especially during the first contact (touch points) you have with a prospect, and it is true, since one way or the other it sets precedent and defines what the communication will be with that person, but it can also be a factor that mines a business relationship, and eventually lead to termination of business.
The premise here is to ignore your preference, find out what is important for the person you have in front of you, and act accordingly.
Understand your preference. In general terms, you value more the relationship if:
- Before starting communication, and as a part of the preparation research, you review your prospects profile, their portal, articles and blogs putting an emphasis on finding common ground as a basis to relate to them.
- When starting communication, you want to set common ground, like common interests, preferences, hobbies and the like.
- You use “ice-breakers” like weather, politics, traffic, last night’s game and the like
- You use words like “connect”, “relate”, “match”, and the like
- Part of your prospecting strategy includes a lot of sowing, even though this doesn’t necessarily show in your success kpi
- You value having a lot of latent contacts
- You get stressed and frustrated when you feel you’re not connecting
- You get stressed or frustrated when, after “achieving a fantastic connection”, during the follow up your prospect is silent, neutral, aloof…
With these pointers, and others you come up with, watch yourself while preparing, performing and following up. Consider if there are factors that modify your preference like strategic value of the account, your level of stress, your quota achievement ration at that given time, and how much you are biased regarding buyer persona and personal traits (like background, gender, age, etc.)
Dwell on observing. The first stage in implementing a change of behaviour is understanding how the change works and what impact it will bring. Observing, learning and witnessing your behaviour will give you not only the understanding and motivation to implement sustainable change, but the clarity of how it looks when it works.
If the topic becomes relevant for you, your team and your manager, organise a formal feedback initiative. Remember the whole point is taking action.
Try it, practice and iterate, variate it, make it yours… measure your performance, good selling, and success!