Can a Salesperson Build Relationships While Still Being Assertive?
Yes, relationship building is a key aspect of sales. It is of paramount importance that, as entrepreneurs and sales professionals, we put the client’s best interest in the forefront of our minds. However, where does assertiveness come into play in our dealings with clients?
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Last week I had a great chat with a marketing consultant in the It's Time to Sell Facebook Community. She is working hard to build a solid foundation of repeat clients for her business. She explained that she understands the concept of building relationships but was challenged with how to guide conversations so that they are productive and create forward momentum for her business. She asked me for advice on when to push and when to wait. She was wondering if she was not being assertive enough, because many of her discussions with prospective clients end with no real movement toward making those prospects into clients.
In an attempt to set her on the right track, I shared with her a few of my sales philosophies:
1) Sales starts with the relationship
We definitely want to get to know our prospective clients and them to know us. However, you can’t do that through a firehose. Relationships are built over time, and it is important that early in the process your prospective client feel your belief in your product or service and your seriousness about delivering value. He or she should know that you mean business, because that will instill confidence, a vital part of the foundation of the relationship. So, yes, get to know more about the person’s family, occupation, recreational activities, and motivation (FORM), but bring the dialogue around to business—your business—so that they know you mean business.
2) Sales is a fluid process, but it is a process
I find that a serious fault of many entrepreneurs is that they have not sat down and mapped out a process to follow in the selling of their products or services. They treat every interaction differently and, therefore, fail to gain the momentum that they could from improving at following a standard process. Last week I was talking with Mary Jane Copps, also known as The Phone Lady. Mary Jane is an expert at telephone communication skills. I mentioned to her that I saw a need for her services, and she immediately said that she could send me a proposal. I could tell from the conviction with which she made that suggestion that she had a sales process and was confident and ready to engage in it. Her confidence and belief in her ability to add value got me to say, “Yes, send away!”
3) Identify the need, share the process, and obtain buy-in
Once you have identified a problem that you know your product or service can solve, take a few minutes to identify a decision-making process. The process should include action steps for both you as the seller and your prospective client as the buyer. We sellers must be assertive about the use of our time. Remember: Your time has value! To a certain extent, prospective clients should earn our time. They can earn it by following through on what they say they will do, during this educational phase of you helping them figure out how to solve their problems. For example, if you share a case study or a white paper with a prospective client, agree on a time by which they commit to having reviewed it, and then follow up when you say you will. The interaction is a two-way street.
4) Form straight-line relationships
The late Bill Gove made a distinction between people who loop and people who form straight-line relationships. People who loop are typically afraid to tell it like it is. Straight-line relationships are direct and are based on trust. Trust results when two people are frank and open with each other. From my experience, you can engage in straight-line relationships almost 100% of the time and be a successful salesperson. In straight-line relationships, clients are not afraid to tell you how they really feel and you are not afraid to tell clients how you really feel.
An entrepreneur who truly desires to add value to clients’ lives and businesses but also believes in the value of his or her own time can find that right level of assertiveness to be successful in sales.
What do you think? What has been your experience in growing your business by building relationships? I welcome your ideas in the comments below.
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