The concept of relationship selling gets a bad rap nowadays. The reason is that it is used many times by sales reps to justify a lack of activity and/or results. “I take a relationship approach to my sales” has become synonymous with driving around and talking to receptionists, spending lots of time in coffee shops, and having sales cycles that are longer than some Senate terms. And I’ll admit, when I first talk to a sales rep and they label their approach as “relationship selling”, red flags immediately pop up everywhere.
But that doesn’t mean relationship selling is bad, it just means that most people don’t really know what it is. In fact, sales people that truly practice relationship selling tend to be more successful than their peers, even if they don’t label it specifically as such.
True relationship selling is about building strong connections with prospects and clients that establishes trust. It’s one thing for someone to like you as a person, completely another for them to trust you and your company. Most salespeople think if they like me they’ll buy from me. In some cases this is true, particularly with smaller purchases. But in the staffing industry your clients are making large buying decisions that have a significant impact on their business, so just liking you typically isn’t enough to sway them. Plus, our industry typically has fairly high turnover, so a prospect is hesitant to make a decision based purely on liking you as an individual.
Here are 4 things you should do to build stronger relationships with your clients and prospects:
- Truly care about them - “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care” is a famous quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, and its true. If your prospect just thinks you are in it for the money, you will never develop a strong relationship
- Provide value – Relationship selling isn’t just about being friendly. Your prospects need to trust and respect you. Think about how you can provide value above and beyond just being nice when they order temps
- Go below the surface – Most relationships are superficial. Sure they like you, you always have a few laughs when you around each other, they answer the phone when you call. But in order to really get beyond a surface-level relationship, you need to find ways to truly connect. Look for common interests and backgrounds, and get them out of the work environment by inviting them to lunch or an event.
- Introduce others – When relationship selling doesn’t work, it usually boils down to a couple of reasons. One, your personalities just aren’t that compatible. And two, they may think you are great, but have a fear that you may leave the company and a key reason for selecting you is quickly gone. Bringing others into the mix can many times address both of these issues. Introduce the recruiter that will work their jobs, your manager, an executive of your company, or a peer. Show them that this isn’t just about you as an individual, and give them a comfort level in making the decision to give you their business.
At the end of the day, building relationships takes time, effort, and an emotional investment. But the rewards can be great, from increased sales to long-term relationships, and even job enrichment through working with people you connect with.
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