Frustration tends to be the impetus for many of our articles. In this case, the fact that so many managers, all the way up to CEOs, believe the number one sales strategy should be relationship selling…
…meaning that an individual makes sales, because he or she knows someone.
There’s no doubt that forming relationships is important. But too many people think too narrow-mindedly about the concept. Relationship selling is more than the product of networking and being chummy. And limiting your thinking to these two is cheating your firm out of an immeasurable amount of cash each year.
Relationship selling is the result of how every aspect of your business touches current and potential buyers. You have to include the big picture…your firm’s entirety…as elements of the sales process. This is true relationship selling.
Not sure what we mean? How many people in insurance or law do you know? Maybe two people? Maybe five? Do you do business with all of them? You know them, don’t you? Then if you have a relationship, why don’t you give all of them a share of your business?
The reason is simple. Relationships open doors and possibilities. They might give you a jump over competition. But they’re no guarantee you’ll close a sale. Let’s take it a step further.
Do you have a relationship with your grocery store?
Do you have a relationship with your furniture supplier?
Do you have a relationship with Amazon or Dell?
Do you have a relationship with Staples or Office Max?
Do you have a relationship with your lawn care company?
Do you have a relationship with your phone company, internet provider, gas and electric company or cable company?
Do you have a relationship with your car dealership?
Most likely to many of the above you don’t. You buy from those that can supply you with what you need or want. If they can’t, you then purchase somewhere else. If the firm discontinues a SKU or product, you shift to a company still carries what you want, and you make new relationships.
It’s funny how quickly a company wants to make a relationship with you when you call to offer them business. Relationships help and they can in a big way if done right.
We buy Chevy for no particular reason except that 20 years ago, we needed a truck for the snowy winters in Syracuse, and we ended up with a Blazer. Then another, then another--13 in all. Even today we have a Suburban. During the two decades, we’ve had “relationships” with Ford people, and yet we still purchase Chevrolets. We haven’t had relationships with GM people, however. Hmm. So maybe the product, the timing, the availability of goods…and a lot of other factors had something to do with our buying decisions.
So that’s an individual personal purchase. What about corporate? No difference.
On a larger scale, look at the battle between Boeing and Airbus to capture Korean Air’s most recent purchase. For years, John Leahy has been the “super-salesperson” behind the Airbus lead over Boeing in the air plane industry. In 2005, the battle was waged between Leahy’s Airbus A350 and CEO Alan Mulally’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Although for two decades, Airbus has won numerous sales, relationships weren’t enough to close the Korean Air deal. In the end, Boeing won the sale; it came down to whose technical team did a better job explaining why their planes were superior. (Perhaps it also had something to do with Boeing’s agreement to buy parts from the Koreans.) Korean Air purchased ten 787s: a deal Airbus thought was “in the bag.
According to an April 13th article in the Chicago Tribune, Northwest, too, is looking to return back to Boeing. Yes, Leahy’s done a bang up job in the area of relationships. And yes, in the airline industry, everyone knows everyone. But the rumor is that Northwest likes the upfront financing deal posed by Boeing better than it likes its “relationship” with Leahy.
For management who puts a lot of weight on relationship selling, this example should make you think. Is the relationship or the deliverable and all that’s associated with the deliverable the force behind the sale?
Gaining a bigger picture will strengthen your sales potential. So, ask yourself one question: What would it take to build a model to capture sales?
Answer the question based on a Sales-101 premise: provide what the buyer wants and/or needs. If you’re really stuck on building relationships, understand that the model built on this premise will, in turn, be the basis for sales relationships…but the RELATIONSHIP DOES NOT COME FIRST.
A last thought. Kelly Lafferman, Vice President of Marketing for Tavistock Group, a private investment company with holding in real estate to restaurants, commented to me recently that she often looks forward to new relationships. The reason, she’s courted differently as the new vendor does not take the business for granted. A lesson for those selling and buying.
Now you can look beyond the myopic idea that a relationship is a product of networking. You know how everything, from the efficiency of an order process to the accuracy of a billing method, forms a relationship. You have some tools to be able to build a concrete, solid model for the sales process. And in doing so, you improve your position in the marketplace and increase your firm’s ability to secure more business. Go make a ton of money.
No PDF Uploaded