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.
I recently attended the Canadian Restaurants and Foodservice Association Show held at the Direct Energy Centre in downtown Toronto. The purpose of the trip? Business. I currently work for Blue Link Associates, a software firm that specializes in the FoodService industry and we were there visiting current clients and trying to sniff out future clients as well.
There was much to see and do and especially taste. One of the biggest draws of the show became abundantly clear early on: there was so much great food to try! The attendees were forming packs around the exhibitors with the best food. The cost of attending the show was only $25 so I highly encourage anyone who wants to try some great food to give it a try, especially if you have other reasons to be there as well (it was a popular show for culinary students, for example). After mingling amongst the great food for a little while though, it was off to work!
A colleague of mine joined me at the show to aid in our intelligence gathering. We learned a couple things early on: pitching the idea of software at a food show is tough and some people don’t want to give out their information. And now for my “boo-hoo salesperson rant”.
It is a shame that salespeople are looked down upon in today’s world. Salespeople were rarely ever given the time of day in the past, but as a result of the ever-growing spam and annoyances people face each and every day – legitimate marketing and sales have begun to be ignored even more. It has become harder and harder to get your message across so we must continue to find new ways to express ourselves to ensure we are heard.
Spammers do what they do best; send out information to vast numbers of people with no targeting whatsoever. Over time these communications have been lumped in with legitimate marketing efforts and have driven the use of spam filters through the roof. There is now a lot of legitimate email (not even other marketing promotions) that are lost in these junk mail filters never to be read.
What all this means is that we must be continually more targeted in our marketing and sales efforts. As I found at the show, the only way to breakthrough some of those barriers was to create a sense of familiarity. Discuss how you are relevant to their business, how you have clients in a similar industry (point them out) and talk about their business and what you can offer them specifically. Remain sincere and informative and focus on building a relationship and rapport. The solution for getting around spam filters I am still working on. I will report back when I have a solution.
What other means to modern salespeople and marketers have to break through some of these defensive barriers? How can marketers reclaim their territory that spammers have all but taken?
A colleague of mine also wrote a blog post on the Benefits of FoodService Software. Feel free to check it out as well.