The sales industry is one that is largely built on relationships. Salespeople are responsible for selling by building relationships with clients. These 8 tips will help you build meaningful sales relationships with clients and potential customers.

1. Stop Pitching and Build Relationships

Customers, just like you, don’t want to be sold, they want to be in control of their environment and make independent buying decisions without pressure or intimidation. If they feel pressurised or intimidated by your presence they will do everything they can to avoid contact with you. You might succeed with this tactic once, but you won’t get many chances to repeat it.

Keep your conversations casual and interesting, informative and engaging, but never pitching for a sale. The objective of the exercise is not to pitch, but to create an environment where the customer wants to buy. When you are successful in building relationships based on mutual respect and you bringing added value to the table, sales will come naturally.

2. Bring Value to the Table

Having conversations for the sake of it, is a waste of your time and your customers. Think about the value of your conversation to the customer, how would they benefit from speaking with you for five minutes on the phone or thirty minutes in person? What value can you bring?

Selling by building relationships means bringing a unique perspective to the mind of your customer. Salespeople are in a great position to gather information, they interact with many different people in different organisations and even different industries. They see the world in a different way to their customers who may only get exposure to a single industry and organisation.

As such, a salesperson can bring new ideas and perspectives to their customers and this is highly valued. They can use this information to help customers achieve their objectives and goals and to avoid potential landmines. Couple this with active listening and understanding their problems and you are adding huge value.

3. Listen

Given the chance, your customers will tell you what their needs are if you create an environment that encourages them to talk. Listening is great starting point. Ask open questions to encourage dialogue and allow your customer voice their feelings without interruption or challenge.

Go beyond just listening, to active listening. Active listening is the art of being seen to be listening. Acknowledge what your customers are saying, through the use of non-verbal and verbal responses such as making eye contact, nodding, repeating what they say, verbatim or paraphrasing.

Now go beyond active listening to fully understanding what it is that your customers are saying to you. Ask probing questions to dig deeper into their issues, to find the root cause of their problems which puts you in a position to help them solve those problems.

4. Respond Promptly

A client of mine has a golden rule, “I always respond to a customer enquiry within 20 minutes of receiving it, even if it’s only to acknowledge it.” He understands selling by building relationships. The more time that lapses, the less the customer will feel valued. We work hard to generate leads so why put them at risk by unnecessarily delaying our response? What else is more important?

When I respond quickly, I regularly receive praise for doing so, comments like “Thank you for getting back to me so quickly” or “Thanks for the prompt reply, I really appreciate it”. When I hear these comments I wonder if these people are used to being ignored and kept waiting? If my competitors are slow to react, this is an opportunity for me to shine!

5. Be Honest and Trustworthy

People can spot dishonesty and mistrust very easily, especially over time, so don’t even think of going there! If you want to build your sales based on repeat business and long-lasting relationships, you need to be a “TRACER”

T – Trustworthy
R – Respectful
A – Authentic
C – Credible
E – Empathetic
R – Resourceful

6. Remove Obstacles to doing Business with You

When seeking feedback, watch for obstacles people are encountering when doing business with you. These may relate to areas of responsibility outside of our direct control but that doesn’t mean you can’t influence change.

When you win business, a whole series of events kick-start. People, departments and processes outside of the sales function suddenly become involved on both sides of the transaction and even third parties. Some of these entities will not have the same interests at heart as you will have about your relationship with your customer.

Not that they will be in any way menacing, but they will have different priorities. It is your job and in your best interest to watch out for any friction that might occur and to have it addressed asap. Talk to your manager, who in turn will talk to theirs until a common denominator is reached who will iron out the cracks

7. Seek feedback

We tend to make assumptions about how our customers view us and often we get it wrong. The only sure way of understanding our customers is to seek feedback from them about our products and services.

Use sales calls to conduct micro surveys on your performance and standing within a customer account. Ask questions like “How did the last delivery arrive? On time and intact?” or “How are you finding the upgrade, is it delivering the benefits you expected?” or “It’s been almost 12 months now since your subscription started, do you feel you are making good use of the software?”

8. Maintain your Relationships

It is so true that it is easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to a new prospect, but this is only true if the relationship is maintained in good stead. Account Management strategies should be put in place to ensure that the other pressures don’t distract you from keeping in touch with your customer.

The size of the account and its potential should dictate how much time you spend on an account. The strategy will outline the number of calls or visits and their frequency. The objective is primarily to keep your relationships alive, especially to engage with new personnel if there are changes and secondly to spot new opportunities as they arise.

Selling by building relationships is not only for Account Managers but for all selling disciplines.