Sales, to some people, is a frightening word. “I do not know how to sell”, “I do not know how to talk to people”, “I am not persuasive”. However, do you know that everyone actually needs sales skills in daily life? A few examples can be; when you convince your colleagues to buy into your ideas; when you persuade your partner to increase monthly allowance; when you bargain for a better price in the market. It is not true that only salesman needs sales skills. It is definitely important to everyone in life. Sales skills encompass persuasion, negotiation, communication, clarity of message, strategic prospecting, objection handling, rapport building, and others. As I listed here, there are so many skills under sales, but what is exactly the number 1 basic sales skill that everyone needs?
I have worked in sales line for several years which allows me to learn and apply numerous sales tactics. To be honest, I am an extroverted introvert. I am not super outspoken kind of salesperson that can talk nonstop and be able to describe a piece of rusted iron as if it is a precious gold. But I do learn an important skill that makes me a better salesperson. It is not “always be closing” but “Always Build Relationship“.
The sales phenomena have transformed from focusing on closing to building a meaningful relationship. Would you agree hard-selling is annoying? I raise up my both hands to agree. Nowadays people prefer not to be sold, especially by the irritating hard-selling technique. But we still need somebody to facilitate the transaction or trading right? So sales role is still vital and necessary in the market. The most skillful and smartest art of selling is “Putting people in the position to buy”. It means I am not selling you directly but I am influencing/persuading you to a point that you can’t resist buying! I am an advocate of relationship establishment in order to put someone in a position to buy. That’s why “Always Build Relationship” is the way. Multilevel marketing (MLM) blooms also because the system is intelligently tapping the influence of relationship, be it friendship or family. Nonetheless, over the years, some MLM members (not all) have abusively exploited friendship and relationship to achieve targets. This is not encouraged. Don’t ever abuse the relationship you have built, you will regret.
Competitions are what we face every day in business. It is not easy to find a company that monopolies the whole market/trade without competitors nowadays. This is seriously a huge pressure for the salespeople. Whenever there is strong competition, there will be a bloody price war, especially during the slow economy. When I was working in water treatment industry as a sales engineer, the severe price war is what’s happening in every job tender. For example, the price of a yearly service package drops from 5 digits 5 years ago to just a few thousand now. Unless the value and quality of the products are unbeatable and uncompromisable, or else price war is simply unavoidable.
Under such circumstances, the network and relationship between you and your customers play a vital role. I also personally face numerous encounters that customers choose us over the competitors who offer lower prices. The reason behind their choices is always the relationship. Of course, a relationship that is under compliance. Building a strong relationship with customers is always the number one tactic we need. The human touch matters. A robust rapport brings several benefits (briefly) as follow:
1. More inquiries/leads
Whenever customers think of enquiring a new solution or product, you will be the first come to their minds. To a salesperson, the more the quality inquiries, the chances of closing one is higher. Receiving zero or not many inquiries a nightmare, trust me.
2. More sales
The propensity to buy from someone familiar is higher than buying from a stranger. This is because trust has been established along with the relationship. If the person is trustworthy, the barrier to agreeing on a transaction is definitely lower. It is particularly powerful for the recurring business.
We always say friends are warm leads. So if customers have become our friends, automatically business transaction can easily be done as they will be sort of taking care of us. However, friends love to ask for friendship discount too, so we need to manage it wisely.
Businesses either expand or shrink. We should seek for partnership and joint venture with customers which can possibly benefit one another. As the level of trust is built, the chances of working together for greater opportunities are higher. And who knows you might be working under your customer’s company one day?
The benefits of building a good relationship with customers are quite straightforward. So the next important thing we need to know is, how to build a good relationship with customers. So how can we build a worthwhile relationship with customers and strengthen it? The following are my 2 cents’ worth:
1. Ask and Listen
Dale Carnegie shared in his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, that if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an active listener. A lot of times, salespeople talk too much about how amazing their products are and neglect what the customer truly needs. Being a good and active listener helps to understand your customer thoroughly. Asking questions is the easiest way to do. Start your conversation by asking them how they are doing, how’s business, etc. If you know their colleagues, friends, or family, you might ask some questions about them too. A little bit of casual talking will help to cheer up the atmosphere, provided they have time. Take note that people you are talking to are one thousand times more interested in their wants and problems than they are in you and your products. So why not you ask some questions to encourage them to talk and share more information. From their answers, continue the conversation smartly and process the information you receive. Based on that, identify what they truly need or the problem they are facing. Then, think of how your products can help them and magnify those benefits. Your words will go deep into their subconscious mind and resonate with their desire. They will feel that you understand them and are helping them. God gives us two ears and one mouth because He wants us to listen more. So if you are shy or inexperienced with meeting customers, try to ask questions and listen to what they say. Don’t forget to bring your brightest smile with you whenever you meet your customers. If you ask questions with a stern face, no people will bother to entertain you. To build a good relationship, be interested and enthusiastic about them.
If you are a customer, would you like a supplier/vendor/seller to be committed to serving and assisting you? Of course. A strong relationship can be fostered easily through the commitment you have put in. I still remember a good feedback from one of my customers saying I am very supportive and helpful, he knows he can count on me. What I have done is putting relentless commitment to his project. I respond to all his requests in the shortest time possible, all his requirement is well fulfilled, and I always listen to his feedbacks attentively and act accordingly. That’s how a relationship has been established because customers always treasure laudable commitment from us. Other than that, I managed to close one big deal purely because of my commitment too. During the tender stage, no matter what many meetings and document requested, I was always there to answer the customer professionally, submit whatever necessary, and propose feasible solutions. Ultimately I won their hearts and got the project. Throughout the process, my commitment has helped to establish a favorable relationship with my customers. That’s why they have chosen my company over the others. This scenario happens all the time. So, remember that all your efforts out of your commitment can clearly be noticed by your customers. You are not only committed to giving good response to them but also committed to their need and satisfaction. It is crucial to prioritize customers’ benefits in mind. Be committed to making their lives easier and happier as this will enhance your relationship with your customers.
One important anchor of a good relationship is trust. Am I right to say, all of us prefer to befriend with a person who is trustworthy? This is similar to the relationship with customers. From my experience, customers will prefer a vendor/sales who they can trust. They hand the job to us hoping we will help them to solve problems and not create problems. If we have proven we can fulfill all their requirement, they will be more than happy to continue cooperation for future projects. A good product/service with authentic value gains our trust and we are willing to purchase. Perhaps your company is new to the customer, what you can do to gain the trust is by showing testimony and reference list. When a product is widely accepted by people and proven, the tendency of gaining their trust is higher. Inevitable, your actions and thoughts must be trustworthy too. Always fulfill your promises! On the contrary, never ever break a trust. If the manufacturer or producer of a commodity is found cheating, our trust to them will definitely be lost. Look at what happened to Volkswagen. A lot of times, trust is broken so as the relationship. Just like what Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. In order to build a relationship with customers, build trust.
Nowadays, with the invasion of technologies, a lot of operations have been transformed and automated. Do you think the operations only limit to productions, transportation but not sales? The answer is No. A vending machine is just an example of trading replacement. Technology platform has been invented to facilitate the transaction between house buyers and sellers without property agents. Soon enough, you can buy an insurance without going through insurance agents. I would say, this is unavoidable under advancement of technologies and human being.
However, there are still 7.5 billion people on this Earth. In order to outsmart and outlast technologies in the sales field, the important skill we truly need to master is establishing relationship and expanding network. Your network equals to your net worth. Remember to be committed to your customers, understand them thoroughly, and build long-lasting trust. The number one basic sales skill is “Always build relationship“.
“Always Build relationship” is inspired by a Millionaire Selling Potato Peeler. Read more here.