Did you know that it costs more than five times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing customer? That in itself should help you understand the value of building a relationship with your customers and turning them into both repeat buyers and spokespeople for your company. Word of mouth referrals are still one of the best ways to make new sales. If Joe tells Ed he got a great deal from Joanna at XYZ company, then Ed is more likely to go to Joanna and also buy (or at least be receptive if Joanna calls him to set up an appointment.)
Building the Relationship
Relationship selling is all about building a friendship or relationship with your prospects and listening to their needs. Once you've built that relationship, shown you care, and earned their trust, you are on the road to making them a customer. Knowing their needs and finding out their secret fears (for example... your client may confide to you, "If I can't make this project work within budget, my boss will probably replace me!") can help you find solutions for them that are exactly on-target with their needs and build an even stronger relationship. With a relationship in place, working out details is a breeze. Those details become obstacles if you don't have the existing relationship.
As a client, some of my best experiences with sales people were with those who honestly listened to my needs, and showed an interest in more than just the business. They came in with a low pressure, open, and honest approach and won my business. I didn't mind setting up appointments for their visits. I looked forward to them. It was low pressure and friendly. My company received good service, good prices, and everyone was happy. I knew they would react quickly if I had problems or emergency needs. So, when competitors called, I quickly told them we were happy with our current vendor - even if they may have been able to give us a better price! That's part of the power of relationship selling!
Most people react negatively to high pressure sales. In relationship selling, high pressure is not typically part of the equation, simply because it's hard to have a friendly relationship with a client who feels pressured by you. In relationship selling, you become a form of support for your clients. Your services or products become something they depend on, and the more you can suit their needs and make their jobs easier, the better they will respond to additional sales offers. You'll also find that relationship selling benefits companies that offer products in very competitive markets - particularly if there isn't a lot of difference between products!
Keeping Up Contact
Part of relationship selling involves maintaining regular contact. If you neglect a client who has trust in your integrity as a person and as a salesperson, that client may finally be forced to turn to your competitor. (Who has probably been calling regularly to get their business.) So, make sure you not only build the relationship, but keep regular contact and keep all channels of communication open. Make available several methods of contact for any type of emergency need. Or you may find that, in an emergency, your client was forced to contact that persistent competitor and discovered that, "Hey, he/she's a nice person too! And their product is maybe even a little better! Hmmmm!" So, the lesson is, make sure you maintain contact and are always accessible to your clients, or you may find yourself having to replace them!
An important part of relationship selling is also having the technology available to manage and maintain those relationships. That often comes in the form of contact management software or a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. We'll talk about that a little later in this article.
Now let's talk about another newer sales technique called High Probability Selling.