The best sales reps can read people and adapt their approach according to what they intuit. Insight, instinct, empathy – they’re all abilities that a talented sales rep will call on when developing a relationship with a client, especially in those tricky early days.
Successful sales reps use their imaginations – what is my customer thinking about? What kind of impression am I making on them? How are they responding? Do they trust me? Indeed, our research shows that 78% of business buyers are looking for a trusted advisor, not just a salesperson.
And consciously or not, most potential clients are asking themselves if this is a person they want to do business with. Because, let’s face it, making a sale is personal and those first moments of potential new relationships can have a big impact on what comes next.
So what can salespeople do if they feel that personal relationship might be on shaky ground? Here are some tips to help get you and your client on the same page.
Sometimes it pays to remember why some cliches persist: because they’re true. The best way to get to know someone is by walking a mile in their shoes. And Paul Voges Area Vice President, Commercial Business ANZ at Salesforce agrees: “The best way to be successful with customers is to put yourself in their shoes before positioning your solution or service.” Simple, but powerful. In the salesperson-customer context, that time-honoured advice looks like this:
Be friendly and focused. Listen, learn and acknowledge. A smile never goes astray.
Know your stuff. It’s not just good business to know what you’re talking about, it’s good manners. Show your customer that you take them and their business seriously.
Do what you say you’ll do. Honesty and reliability will set the foundations of your relationship from day one.
So yes, it’s personal. But it’s also professional. And it’s professionalism that wins over your client.
Speaking of golden oldies, this is another good one to add to your list of classics.
It seems like everyone today loves a label, and with so much information out there about personality categories and how to deal with them, labels tend to get applied fast and loose. Resist the temptation, because snap judgements based on little experience are rarely accurate or useful.
Don’t assume you know your customer based on your first, second or even third meeting. Give them time – you never know what’s going on for someone on any given day. Just as they may be reserving judgement on you, hold back on generalising about them.
Great customer experience will start with some smart questions. Find out early on, for example, how they like to have information presented to them and the channels they prefer for followup.
They might be quick to tell you whether they want a deep-dive into a product or just enough information to pass it on to their boss.
Do they like a regular check-in over the phone? Or will an email do the trick? According to Janet Cutler General Manager - Salesforce Innovation at Modern Star, “To stay ahead of the curve, you need to transform the customer experience and provide a personalised one every time.”
No matter how much your client might be inclined to discuss the failings of previous sales agents, don’t participate in putting down past colleagues in an effort to win favour. It doesn’t bring anything useful to the table and it’s a bad look.
Instead, make it clear that you've heard them and that you’ll be focused on providing a different experience. Don’t base your approach on simply offering an alternative to a salesperson who rubbed someone the wrong way.
Your focus should be on showing the best version of yourself because almost anyone can land a job in sales but there’s a distinction between a sales rep and a sales professional. As Cian McLoughlin CEO at Trinity Perspectives explains: “Sales reps sell their wares to make a living. Sales professionals are driven first and foremost by making a difference for their customers.” Be the latter.
“Acknowledging that our customers all have different needs, and supporting those needs with detailed data, ensures we prioritise the right opportunities for the right stakeholder with the right value proposition,” says Sally Fallow, General Manager at Para Mobility.
Data and CX make for solid building blocks when it comes to creating a relationship with a client, even where personality differences look to make things tricky. Yes, be yourself – authenticity is crucial – but also draw on the professionalism, tools and technologies that can really demonstrate what a powerful partner and advisor you can be to your client.