Making Relationship Selling Work for You and Your Prospects
The science of selling has evolved over the years, meaning that sales teams can upgrade their strategies to match. A transaction-based model, which relies on templates and usually doesn’t personalize its outreach, has been historically popular because of its ease of use. However, it’s less effective than a strategy that uses a personalized approach to focus on creating the right message, at the right time, for the right person.
Relationship selling takes personalization to the next level by focusing on the quality of the connection between buyer and seller, prioritizing that aspect over a product and its features. Relationship selling creates a bond based upon trust and quality of experience, both throughout the selling process and afterward. It's a preferable method for companies specializing in larger purchases and long-term commitments: i.e., the majority of B2Bs. Getting to know clients and treating them like partners is fundamental to relationship selling and results in better business in the long term.
Here's why you should include relationship selling in your sales enablement strategy.
Understanding the Basics of Relationship Selling
If selling techniques were a family, relationship selling would belong to the same one as team selling and social selling. It believes in personalization, quality interactions, and the synergy between knowing someone and offering them a service or product that improves an experience. What makes relationship selling unique is that it is hyper-customized to the buyer: who they are, what experience they’re seeking, and the outcome they’re hoping to achieve. Specifically, relationship selling works by:
- Building trust: Sellers get to know the prospect on an authentic level. They build a professional relationship that involves actively listening to clients as they speak about their needs and values. Through thoughtful engagements that take place over time and demonstrating real concern for the buyer, sellers can build trust that enables a long-term partnership.
- Understanding a buyer’s pain points: No two companies are exactly the same, and the person on the other end of the line will always have an outlook and concerns that are unique to them. Sellers must work to get to know exactly what a buyer needs and why before offering a product or service.
- Offering a pitch-perfect solution: When a pitch is made, sellers rely on the research and knowledge gleaned from their relationship with the buyer to offer a helpful solution that speaks directly to their pain points. This means that a seller won’t ever merely list features of a product; instead, they’ll take the time to figure out which features speak most to a buyer and why, then present that information accordingly.
- Maintaining contact: Buyers stay in touch with sellers after they close a deal (or don’t–more on that later). Just like you would stay in touch with a friend after you graduate from a program together, buyers maintain the relationship even after the transaction is complete.
What Does It Take to Succeed with Relationship Selling?
Now that we know what relationship selling looks like, we can talk about what it involves. Sellers are going to want to cultivate the following skill sets to excel in relationship sales:
- Conducting detailed research: Getting to know someone and what speaks to them means doing some homework. Learn about their company: its size, culture, and the value it brings to the world. Discover what their position entails, and what their online profiles say about their personality. You can use this research to find a point of commonality between you and a prospect so that you can build a relationship. Spending just 10 minutes learning who your prospect is, how you can make them feel special, and what value you bring to them and their organization can help you conduct the type of hyper-personalized outreach that is crucial to relationship sales.
- Active listening and quality engagement: Pay close attention to what a person is saying, eschewing small talk in favor of quality engagement that provides value at every touch. Some ways to cultivate active listening skills include asking the right questions, avoiding cliches or canned responses, and incorporating feedback to refine your response and approach constantly. Active listening can also mean setting and observing boundaries. For instance, if you notice that a client is busy in the late afternoon, don’t call or email them.
- Being okay with the “no:” Sometimes a buyer will put in the effort to form a relationship with a seller, only to have that person say “no” to a partnership. When this happens, it’s important not to try to convince them to change their minds. Instead, you should accept the “no,” understanding that doing so can preserve the relationship. By walking away gracefully, you’re leaving the door open to business further down the road, while also eliminating the churn involved in trying to convince someone to act now.
Is Relationship Selling for You?
Relationship selling takes more time and careful consideration than other forms of selling, but the benefits are worth it. Treating buyers as valuable partners can lead to greater customer satisfaction, more opportunities down the road, and a better overall understanding of a customer base.
Statistically speaking, fully engaged customers bring in 51% higher revenue and sales than actively disengaged customers. They also spend an average of over 23% more. So how do you know if it’s for you?
- You run a long sales cycle: Industries that run a long sales cycle with several touch points throughout should use relationship selling, as it caters to that trend. High-cost and customized solutions (that are frequently offered by B2Bs) usually fall in this category.
- You rely on customer loyalty: If your business wouldn’t succeed without the repeated business of loyal customers, then relationship selling will benefit that objective. Local businesses qualify, as do companies with a strong brand appeal.
- Your offering evolves over time: Some industries are consistently incorporating user feedback in order to improve the product or service they offer consumers. SaaS companies, for instance, regularly make updates and release them in new product versions. In every instance, building a strong relationship with the user in the very beginning empowers these companies to continue providing a customized offering to users.
While there’s more to relationship selling than what’s been discussed here, this information can help you boost your sales efforts beyond personalization in order to drive more effective business. By doing your research, providing value in every touch through quality contact, getting to know a prospect’s exact pain points, and delivering a pitch in a way that makes sense to them, you can enhance your sales outcomes.