I was having a conversation with my boss the other day when this idea for a blog post hit me. It seems like something that people have been discussing for quite some time but I like to dive deeper than the mumbo-jumbo like “build a relationship” , “play big”, “have confidence”. For a minute, let’s get nice and specific.
I will not say that my experience applies to all sales people but those in a similar situation can probably attest to what I have to say. Currently, I do B2B sales; selling very expensive business software systems. In this line of business there is very little that matters more than building a relationship.
When business managers think of building a relationship they are often focused on repeated business. In the B2C space there is little time to form a relationship before a purchase – particularly if the purchase is low-involvement. Before you even have a chance to build that trust consumers have already made up their mind – it doesn’t matter to consumers enough because they have little to lose. In these circumstances, it is most important to build good products, make the experience great and focus on ways to build loyalty after-the-fact. With high-involvement B2B sales you need to build a strong relationship long before your customer ever makes a decision.
In my line of work deals can take months or even years before a decision is made ,which is why it is so important to build a strong relationship through the process. In fact, the relationship is often the sole deciding factor. When there is little distinguishable difference between products, decision makers have no choice but to go with their gut and with the person they trust. The sales cycle in these businesses are long not just because the products are high-involvement but because a strong relationship needs time develop. Often decision makers have made up their minds many months prior to the closing of a sale but they need time to make sure their decision is the right one and ensure that they have left enough time to truly get to know the individuals within the company they will be working with/buying from.
So what can we learn from this? Focusing on relationship building is one of the most important aspects to shortening the sales cycle. That means making sure that your sales staff understand the importance of being honest and not pushy. Yes, you want to make a sale but you need to take it easy, present your information and try to be open and unbiased with them. If your products or services are not a good fit, be honest about – don’t try to make something happen that is not meant to be. Potential customers appreciate honesty and will look to you for advice and this will ultimately shorten the sales cycle and lead to loyal and trusting customers in the long-run.