Relationships Rule in Sales

Relationships Rule in Sales

Is technology distancing you from the people you need to reach most?

By Joanne S. Black

The Internet and other breakthroughs in communications technology have fundamentally changed the way we do business – and have begun to make communication and relationships obsolete. As people text and e-mail and IM, they often ignore the people right around them. So while new technology may make communication faster, it’s not necessarily better. In this era of ever-evolving technology, relationships still rule.

Here’s why:

“Like” attracts loot. The most important business decisions a customer makes are still based on personal relationships. When I worked for a global consulting and training firm, we had a system for debriefing sales situations and learning why the client made the decision to work with us. Assuming we had a solution that made us a contender, the No. 1 reason our customers chose us was because they liked us. Multimillion-dollar decisions were made because we were able to develop positive relationships with the customer.

Business is person-to-person. There’s a saying among salespeople that customers buy with emotion and justify with fact. If customers don’t like or feel comfortable with you, they probably won’t buy you, because there is probably someone in your line of business they will enjoy working with. Research shows that people decide whether or not they’ll like you within a few seconds of meeting you. An e-mail from a fancy gizmo won’t make that happen, but a trusted referral and a personal connection will.

Women rule at relationships. Women have a remarkable advantage in building relationships. We’re great at making connections, asking insightful questions, being empathetic, reading how people react and finding creative solutions to problems. We do this every day in our personal lives (as we try to balance work, family, friends and personal interests), and we transfer this skill to our business lives. We often get instant feelings about people upon meeting them. Yes, it’s intuition, not fact, but it’s important. A gut feeling doesn’t just come from nowhere. It’s how you subconsciously react based on past experiences and what you’ve learned from other relationships. So while you may not be able to qualify a gut reaction to another person, it’s still a valuable relationship tool based on your relationship and business wisdom.

Referrals win the day. Growing your business and expanding your client base requires leveraging relationships you already have to build new ones. I call it referral selling, and I know it works. When someone refers another person who trusts their judgment to us, there is an implied trust and curiosity upon meeting. First impressions are no longer based completely on you, as someone else’s flattering opinion of you is now part of the new relationship. The decision-making time is dramatically shortened; your competition – whom the client knows nothing about – fades into the background; you establish immediate credibility; and you get a new client more than 50 percent of the time.

Women win at referrals. Women are terrific at getting a complete picture of someone – and sharing that information with friends and associates. We are just as interested (if not more so) in an individual’s personal story as in their business story, which often helps us connect well with potential clients (especially other women, who share our desire to relate). Ask questions like, “How did you get to where you are now?”, “Where do you live?”, “Do you have a family?” and “Where do you like to vacation?” Sure, it’s small talk, but it goes a long way in making someone trust you and shows you have a personal interest in her and her business.

Remember to connect with people, and you will see your business grow. If you connect only with machines and don’t take the time to relate one-on-one with your client, she may feel disconnected from you and you may not get the sale. Business data may run better on silicon chips, but business relationships don’t. So leave the technology behind and make the person-to-person connection. 

Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling and is the author of No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust (Warner Business Books).

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