The sales equivalent of the chicken and egg debate could be – which came first the relationship or the business?
Sure, there are some products, industries and situations where you obtain business from a client prior to a relationship and some where you never develop a relationship – let’s park those.
In the majority of situations – and particularly when you’re in a knowledge and advice based business – the relationship does and should come first. Why?
- It’s hard to sell meaningful solutions to people who don’t know you’re there
- It’s hard to sell meaningful solutions to people you don’t know & know well
- It’s hard to sell meaningful solutions to people who don’t trust you, who & what you represent and what you’re offering
In fact often it’s just hard to sell meaningful solutions.
One common factor exists behind nearly every business – people. And in most B2B situations another factor is usually true, people make the decision on which partners to use. People do business with people. You have relationships with people, not businesses.
One simple question – does a relationship beget business or does business beget a relationship?
Mindful of the exceptions mentioned above, in knowledge and advice based sales, a relationship is a crucial success factor to securing business and doing so in the long term.
Interestingly however, most businesses refer to their sales people/hunters as ‘business development managers’ and their farmers as ‘relationship managers’.
A BDM/Hunter/Sales Person has to have finely honed relationship development skills. Why? They have to approach prospective customers and develop a relationship – often trying to form relationship with a prospective customer who usually have an incumbent supplier and no pressing need to form another relationship – they have to create and maintain this impulsion. The path to business can be long – and the relationship needs to be maintained before during and after any business is done.
Good BDM’s realise they are actually relationship developers rather than business developers. A deep and sincere relationship opens the door to find opportunities to help clients and be meaningful – that is, to do business.
Why is this distinction important? Business is a point in time transaction (internally usually measured as a ‘sale’), a relationship is a long term mutually beneficial engagement. A relationship is meaningful, it’s memorable, it’s consistent, it’s thoughtful. If you focus on business – you are focusing short term. If you focus on relationship – you’re joining a journey with the client.
As a BDM/Sales Person – ask yourself – is it the relationship and genuine desire to help clients maximise the good and mitigate the not so good that drives you? Or just the transaction.
As sales leaders – ask yourself – do I have a sales force who are client centric relationship developers and managers?
Your best customers don’t talk about the great pricing they get or the awesome products….they talk about, remember and advocate the great relationship they have with you! Manage this, develop this, encourage this. The ‘business’ part will take care of itself.