No business without customers. But customer questions change. People are articulate, well-informed and want to have a say in the solution. How do you bring in and retain customers? One factor can certainly distinguish a company from others. And that factor is you.
Armed with a glossy PowerPoint, Jamie (37) has a zoom call with a regular customer. The PowerPoint is for his contact person’s benefit; Jamie knows all the details by heart. He starts confidently and they first have a nice chat. But his self-confidence diminishes when he explains what a new proposition can mean for the customer.
The contact nods faintly, but she doesn't seem really interested in his story. He asks what she thinks of the proposition. Her answer? Her company already works with a similar system and they just don’t see an immediate added value in switching. After ending the call, Jamie feels very disappointed.
You would want to prevent this, right?
Hitting the target
Why would customers choose your product, service or organization? The answer is easier than you may think. "The relationship is what makes you stand out," says Robert Schulte, who has been training and coaching sales professionals for 25 years.
No wonder that Robert is often asked: we know our product or service inside and out. But how do we become more relationship-oriented so that we really understand our customers and their dilemmas? How do we calm down and listen better to what is being said?
Robert: "The pitfall is to think: selling is talking a lot. The reality is slightly different. The customer convinces himself more by what she/he says than by what you say. "Giving, listening, asking questions, understanding the customer, showing empathy: these are important skills for sales success. But also ask thought-provoking questions to find out the question behind the question. What does this person or organization really need?
[quote: Someone with 30 years of experience is someone with 1 year of experience, 29 years ago.]
So, should all sales pitches go into the shredder? It's not that simple, according to Robert. "Seduction is definitely still an important part of sales. But that is something different than pushing. Customers really are too “mature” for that."
Reflecting on yourself
Robert's work is therefore increasingly about breaking through behavioral patterns, developing mental skills, daring to be proud and motivating to keep learning. "I sometimes say jokingly: someone with 30 years of experience is someone with 1 year of experience, 29 years ago."
Habits can hinder your success. Dare to question your own skills. The sales profession is often individual; feedback from colleagues is limited. You can practice the profession until you retire, as long as you use your talents and challenge yourself to keep developing.
Person to person
For example, sales professionals have a lot to gain from psychological insight. Your company does not do business with other companies. As an individual you do business with other individuals.
Dealing with different types of people is what makes the sales profession challenging. You'll also be doing business with people you wouldn’t necessarily be friends with. That only works if you understand human behavior and can put yourself in the shoes of the other.
Empathy is the key
"Have you ever thought about acting lessons?" Says Robert. "Not to be able to pretend, because people see right through that. With acting, you can learn to be able to connect better with people, to empathize and to attune your verbal and non-verbal behavior to the other person."
[ quote: If you had invested in the relationship, you might have been able to participate in the discussion or even contribute ideas for the change.]
Do not forget the cultural aspect. Are you starting international sales? Then you will have to take local cultures and norms and values into account. "A sales manager I mentored had an important meeting in Spain," Robert recalls. "He arrived in the evening and was tired. So he kindly declined the customer's offer to dine together. Well, he could just as well have gone home right away."
No news is good news?
Working on the relationship certainly does not stop as soon as the signed quotation is returned. Suppose you think you have a great relationship. Your organization delivers in accordance with the agreements and you didn’t hear any complaints. Nothing to worry about, right?
"Until something changes at the customer’s end," says Robert. For example, your contact person leaves or the organization embraces a new strategy. Before you know it, the collaboration will be terminated. Had you invested in the relationship, you might have been able to participate in the discussion or even contribute ideas about the change.
Others sell for you
Don't forget the power of ambassadors for your organization. Customers are increasingly relying on “hearsay”. After all, there are so many choices. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn shows more and more calls from people looking for this or that within their network. Imagine that you are then warmly recommended. Something to aspire to, right?
Exactly, those ambassadors are the people with whom you have built a good relationship. Who don't push you away when they see your name on the phone screen because they don't feel like a sales pitch, but who are happy to exchange ideas with you. Because that is customer loyalty: really thinking along with your customer.
Become the top seller from whom you would buy yourself
Learn to build strong relationships with the right combination of psychological insights and commercial skills. And with that, better sales results. Ready to start your learning journey? Contact us for a personalized virtual sales academy for your organization.