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Lasting Customer Relationships: A Guide to Coaching Your Sales Team


How you show up as a salesperson, a sales leader, a member of an account team, and as an employee are fundamentally important to creating a long relationship with a customer. Of course, this starts on day one with the intensive homework it takes to get to know your target.

But how do you keep demonstrating your commitment and investment with a customer as time goes on? How do you show up to continue adding value outside of just the sale? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Speak a common language.

As you engage with customers from the first interaction onward, it’s imperative to know and relate to their specific vision, values, and terminology. Connection through a common language is incredibly advantageous because the person on the other side of the table can more readily understand your company and its positions.

My team often enters sales meetings where potential clients are thinking deeply about their customer journey and how to ensure it will not be disrupted. By researching and being on the same page, we can help companies across all industries see a future that includes the support of a great account team that’s interested in helping them transform their business. Leveraging and sharing stories on what other customers are doing and how they are achieving that is very powerful. Showing customers a plan  through this lens provides confidence and dissipates a lot of the concerns they might have. Taking the time to do this and continuing the same dialogue throughout the relationship is crucial.

2. Support and coach frontline managers.

Frontline managers are critical for scaling and delivering success in any sales organization. It’s essential to ensure these managers are receiving the training that helps them coach down into their teams. The key is to always be coaching and driving a culture that embraces it. The larger the sales organization the more important it becomes as coaching moves down through further tiers. Scaling really starts with frontline managers and ensuring they have the tools and skills to help their teams succeed. In turn, it helps account executives to show up and better engage for intimate customer relationships over time.

3. Be open to feedback.

Critique is a lever for success. Before engaging with customers for first meetings or other ongoing opportunities, I often encourage my team to seek out others to critique their thinking, approaches, and assumptions. Connect with your manager, co-workers, and mentors for constructive criticism. When you open the door for others to come in, there is a floodgate of new ideas and creative thinking that can bring you and your team to a higher level.

Of course, this is a two-way street. Getting feedback from customers is absolutely essential. If you can engage on a peer-to-peer level with a customer, the relationship shifts completely. At this point you can show up to your customer as a trusted advisor. And, as time goes on, they may invite you to critique their own thinking or provide feedback. It’s a prime way to shift the conversation from just a vendor to a trusted advisor.

4. Create diversity.

More and more customers will expect you to show up in a diverse way. This means both diverse viewpoints and team members--including race, gender, and preference. The importance of this can’t be underscored enough because it’s vital to building a holistic and successful sales team.

There’s another side to this and it ties into the previous point on feedback. Many of our customers also want to have a conversation in regard to our approach to diversity and our core values at Salesforce. What is our methodology? How could they apply the same kind of thinking to their organization? Creating diverse teams, driving diversity, and supporting it within your organization is a critical component for growth. Whatever the topic, this is another way you can show up for your customer and share insights building into that trusted advisor role.

5. Create a community.

As time goes on and engagement increases, the next level of the relationship moves beyond showing up in a one-to-one way. It’s about building a community-based relationship with customers. Creating a thought leadership voice on a topic--be it technology and growth, diversity, shared values, or corporate culture--moves you out of just a relationship and into more of a movement. Find the place where your own company can take a leadership role in defining and educating, and bring your customers along for the ride.

If you can engage on a peer-to-peer level with a customer, the relationship shifts completely.”

Eileen O’Mara | Senior Vice President, Commercial Sales, Salesforce

Learn More

The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught By Dan Ross,
Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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