Are you a bulldozer? One of those people assiduously avoided by all and talked about behind your back. You may not even realise it, though people do seem to dodge your calls and sidestep you at conferences. In a selling environment you have to be confident, but the best sales people also understand that the key to a successful relationship is about listening and responding, not about dominating the conversation.
At meetings with customers and prospects, how much time do you spend talking about yourself? Each year, in their Executive Buyer Study, Forrester ask the question: ‘Thinking of a typical vendor sales meeting how would you characterise their agenda. Is it about the seller, or about the buyer? Astonishingly, 80% reported that it was about the seller!
Clearly the essential interaction, finding out what stage the buyer is at and what they need is all too often ignored in favour of the transaction. For most buyers these conversations take place at the beginning of an initiative or project so there is automatically an opportunity to demonstrate investment in the success of the relationship beyond the initial order.
Relationship is the key word. Bulldozers are listening only for qualification and to handle objections. Instead the seller has to listen to the issues, understand the requirements and provide honest responses. There is little point promising the world when you don’t know if you can actually deliver it, so be honest and realistic and discuss the priorities with the buyer.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Would you want to listen to not only a rehearsed sales pitch, but rehearsed questions too? The questions should be authentic and relative to what the buyer is telling you. Asking appropriate questions is an art, and sellers have to perfect it.
Timing is everything. So don’t call at the end of the quarter when you happen to have a good deal, instead make that call at an appropriate time for your customer. When there is growth, or changes, or contraction – perhaps you can help.
Changing the tone of your interaction with customers will improve your long-term relationship, but there are so many other ways that you can become a valued partner.
- Research your market so you understand the space you are in and the problems you can solve.
- Remember the old saying: You have two ears and one mouth so use them in that proportion.
- Be honest and realistic about what your service or product can do. Don’t oversell yourself into a problem for tomorrow.
- Work with your customer to learn, get involved and invest yourself in the success of the project. This will win you referrals and customer advocacy.
- Be aware of what is happening in your customer’s world. Listen for social signals such as awards in the press, senior management changes or status update on social networks and call when it is appropriate.
Be honest with yourself. If you can see yourself slipping into bulldozing tactics, stop and listen. It’s not difficult and it’s so much more rewarding.
By Dale Roberts, VP Professional Services at Artesian Solutions