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Sales Is A People Business

Competence in sales depends on how salespeople achieve mastery in several areas, one of which is the people side of selling. Most sales training dollars are spent on product knowledge and the technical aspects of the job. However, current research shows that 70% of one’s success is how the worker manages oneself and one’s relationships with other people—only 30% of one’s success is attributable to technical skills. For salespeople and their managers, this means let’s keep the focus on customers.

Ted Levitt, the marketing guru at Harvard, wrote years ago: “The purpose of a business is to get and keep customers. The sale merely consummates the courtship. How good the marriage is depends on how well the relationship is managed by the seller.” Professional selling is a people business. As a salesperson, you sell products, but you serve people. Trust is the currency of all great relationships. If two people trust each other and want to do business, they will figure out a way to make it happen. And when it comes to customer satisfaction, it’s the customer’s perception that ultimately counts.

Relationship Building 101
As a salesperson, there are a number of things you can do to build your relationship with your customer.

Listen more than you talk. You’ve been blessed with two ears and two eyes and only one mouth. God was telling you to watch and listen a lot more than you talk. The sweetest sound to the customer’s ears is his or her own voice, not yours. Perform acts of consideration.

Look for ways to demonstrate your concern for the customer. If the customer’s child does something significant and his or her name appears in the newspaper, send the customer an extra copy of it with a nice note. Send thank-you cards to let the customer know that you appreciate his or her business. It’s the little things that count.

Use entertainment to your advantage. One director of purchasing told me that he liked to use entertainment with salespeople to get an inside look at what the salesperson was really like. Going to a restaurant and watching how the salesperson treated servers told the buyer what he was really dealing with.

Recognize the Best
Offer preferential treatment for your top customers. Many companies establish customer loyalty programs for their frequent buyers. You may also rely on these “special” customers as an advisory council for your business. This treatment signals to customers that you value their input as well as the relationship.

As a rookie salesman, a buyer told me that my job was to make him a hero. Everything I did in his account had the specific purpose of making him look good. The bargain he struck with me was that if I made him look good he would help me look good.

Fully immerse yourself in the buyer’s business. Become part of their culture. During the great flood of ’93, I saw salespeople fill sandbags with their customers before the flood hit and help customers clean up after the flood was over. That’s a sight your customers will never forget: Vendor salespeople standing over sandbags, sweaty and dirty, helping customers try to salvage their business.

Offer your customers business-building ideas. When you help them grow their businesses, you are part of their profit stream. This value-added approach tells the customer that you are genuinely interested in their success and want to help them achieve as much success as they desire.

Deliver proactive customer service. Being proactive with customers means never having to say you’re sorry. Anticipate and act in advance of problems to nip them in the bud. The customer may never know that you fixed a problem before it affected them, but you know—you hear the inner applause.

Staying Personal in a High-Tech World
Over the past two decades, technology has changed forever the face of selling. Voice mail, cell phones, beepers, laptops, PDA’s, the Internet and video conferencing have given salespeople the ability to stay connected with customers 24 hours per day. Telemarketing foretold the death of personal selling, and it never happened. People still buy from people. Companies that bring in outside purchasing groups to handle their negotiations and manage supply chains believe that by constructing a firewall they can avoid the personal relationship between buyers and sellers.

This approach is shortsighted since the value of a personal relationship overshadows the technology that supports it. When a purchasing agent can get on the phone and track down a salesperson who can find hard-to-get items, it’s the value of the relationship that matters, not necessarily the technology. There will always be a need for salespeople and their buyers; they are the link in the supply chain between two companies that want to do business.

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Tom Reilly Meet The Author
Tom Reilly is an internationally recognized motivational speaker and expert in Value Added Selling. He is president and founder of Tom Reilly training and can be found on the Web at www.tomreillytraining.com.


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