There are two ways you might sell. The first uses a transactional sales approach in which the sales rep takes an order. After this initial transaction, the salesperson will need to acquire another order from that same client. In some cases, this transactional approach makes sense, but sometimes a company forces their team to use transactional approaches, even though it isn’t right for the sales organization or their clients.
The second sales approach is consultative, which typically results in the salesperson acquiring the client and all their orders for some period. The long-term nature of the sale places great responsibility on the consultative salesperson who won the deal.
Both transactional and consultative salespeople have relationships with their clients, but the nature of these relationships often differs. All salespeople can benefit from their relationship with the client. Some part of what salespeople sell is a relationship, and the following elements can help you establish one that will help you and your clients.
A Long-Term View of the Relationship
To acquire a client and all their orders, you need to start with a long-term view of your relationship with them. When we criticize transactional strategies, a major issue is the short-term view the salesperson takes when pursuing a client. You are better off using a consultative sales methodology and the value creation strategies that will position you as a potential long-term partner.
A first meeting is an audition. You are trying out to join your prospective client’s team. Your intention should be to sell the relationship once and own the client until for the rest of your career in sales.
The Gift of Time
A lot of leaders prioritize sales velocity, closing deals quickly. In sales, you can go no faster than your client. When you try to shorten the client’s decision-making process, you make it more difficult for them and increase your odds of losing the deal.
The amount of time your client gives you is a sign of how well you are doing. The more time they spend with you, the better your chances of winning. When a client is unwilling to give you time, you may be in trouble.
You might ask yourself how to acquire more of your prospective client’s time. This leads us into the next factor in selling the relationship.
The Value You Create
When we talk about creating value, we are describing how the client benefits from the sales conversation. This is not the value your company’s solution can create to improve the client’s business results. To win a deal, you must create value so the prospective client prefers to enter a relationship with you over your competitor. See: What Is Value Creation in B2B Sales?
It is easy to build a relationship through value creation, but it takes time. The sales lemmings’ transactional approaches lead them to jump off the cliff of efficiency. They lack the concept of creating value for their client in the sales conversation.
If you are consultative and in possession of a modern sales approach and strategies, you need only worry about a competitor who has the approach and experience to compete with you. See Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
You and your team will need to deliver for your client if you want to sell the relationship. No matter how well you do in building the relationship, if you cannot provide the client what they need from you and your company, you will lose them.
One way to avoid this problem is to engage with the people who are responsible for delivering the results you sold the client. When possible, bring them into the sales conversation. You might also explain that you will have a learning curve and that you will make changes as you stand up the client’s solution.
Too many salespeople sell the client relationship and disappear. Without constant communication, you make it more difficult to sell and maintain the relationship. If you own the client, you want to work with your client on a cadence for communication.
By maintaining communication, you prove you care about your client and their results. Caring is a superpower when you are selling the relationship. Transactional approaches aim to win deals by helping the sales organization with little concern for the client.
If you sell the relationship, you must continually bring new value. To maintain the ability to create and deliver new value requires that you do the work that others will not.
To create new value, you must start by reading, researching, and providing your client with advice and recommendations that will ensure they succeed now and in the future. You need to know what your client needs to know before they need it, something your competitor won’t consider.
Selling the Relationship
If you want to win only once and command all your client’s orders and initiatives thereafter, you must sell the relationship. You can start by taking a longer view of the relationship, something that may require a maturity model or a roadmap. The reason you need time is so you can prove you can create value. By delivering results, communicating consistently you are positioned to sell the relationship.
Leaving this article, audit your client relationships and look for ways to invest in those relationships and improve your ability to retain and grow your clients. No matter what you have heard otherwise, your success in sales requires you to have excellent client relationships.