Support is the new black
"Relationships with customers matter most in business. Even more so in sales."
That’s the earliest advice I remember being given when I started to work as an agent for knitwear from India.
Mostly it’s because:
- Competition is huge.
- Customers are ready to switch.
- Process-driven decisions are made.
On impulse, we can say: „Yes, that's perfectly right.“
I admit. Surely, they are important.
We buy from people that we know, like & trust.
No doubt about that.
We all love the idea of building strong relationships with our clients.
What is relationship selling?
Yeah, yeah. I know.
Relationship selling can work. Especially if you pitch yourself the right way. Playing golf together, spending weekends skiing, going out for dinner. Parties with spouses. Supporting the same sports team. The list goes on.
What is the intention of going out and building a relationship with a buyer?
Is the intention to be charming and become friends?
Become pals & buddies in order to squeeze somebody into a sale?
This is not what a relationship is all about.
You don't need a friendship to sell.
You know my father was working as a salesperson for garments almost all his life. He retired around 10 years back. Still, he's a good mentor and gives me advice. I remember all the stories he told how his sales colleagues tried literally everything to become buddy - buddy with their buyers. Funny stories... like grabbing each other shoulders, staggering out of a bar together like rock stars when the sun already rose...
Though those were legitimate common practices in these old days.
The word: „business-friend“ was still in place.
It seems not any more modern sales behavioral of today.
You can still have a meaningful part in your clients' life.
A relationship is on a different level
Buyers are rigorously requested to refrain from personal relationships with their suppliers.
Basically, a good idea to avoid nepotism. In many German companies, it is mandatory to respect compliance principles and guidelines. Some buying methods cut off the salesperson totally.
Like only asking for a bid in a portal. Here no interaction with buyers and sales. Which I feel is a pity because a salesperson can support, proposes options, and speed up the decision process.
A relationship is about helping them with their business. Not being buddies.
What are the key factors of a strong customer relationship?
How do you tell that you have a good relationship with your apparel buyers?
- Caring behavior. Respectful and friendly behavior with empathy on both sides. One of my clients' companies went insolvent and needed to close. Before this was officially the buyer called and informed me about that. So, we were able to stop the running production of orders that would have never been shipped.
- Sharing your gut feeling. Maybe even disagree on certain points? In a strong relationship, this would be o.k. Some people don't want confrontation and do not take the risk of becoming disliked by their clients.
- Open exchange in two ways. On an equal level.
- Your clients respect you for your professional competence and consider you as an expert in your field. For example, they need advice for something not particularly related to your original cooperation field. They ask for your expertise or help. Or they have a problem, and you are the first they call. This is wonderful.
- They speak about you in a positive way when you're not around.
- Allow some space for your customer. If they don't call you back immediately for example.
You can have a good relationship with a buyer who doesn't buy from you. I would not take so much importance to the fact to be liked as a person by your clients.
If a client doesn't feel like wanting to spend private time with you that's o.k. No need to push that. If that happens naturally you get closer with each other, fine.
But it's not necessary for your success in sales.
I appreciate the idea of separating business relationships and friendships.
Buyers believe in what you do more than in what you say
You can tell your customer a hundred times that you see your customer as a partner. They believe when you act as a partner.
Why not look at your customer with a curious mind, get to know someone, try to serve, and support.
With an attitude of openness.
The main intent here is to support your customer's goals.
Love to hear your ideas and experiences with this matter.
Thanks so much for sharing your time with me and looking forward to speaking soon.
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