It’s hard to believe, but we’re already nearing the end of another year. For me, the fourth quarter has always meant doubling down on efforts to lead my team toward meeting our sales goals for the year. I know many other leaders face a similar situation.
When having these conversations with friends and colleagues in the sales business, I always tell them to go back to the basics. Simplify your thinking and focus on the most fundamental aspect of your sales process: building relationships. Revisit your touchpoints, your introductions, the lifecycle of typical interactions with prospects, and how you learn about and grow with them throughout the sales cycle. Are there untapped opportunities for more meaningful and authentic engagement with the people you are selling to?
It’s become more important than ever to adopt a warm, human and empathetic approach to your sales process. People want to know that you care about their wants and needs and that you are listening to them. Oftentimes, the most important part of any sale is actively listening to your prospect, discovering what their challenges are, validating their concerns, and positioning yourself as a partner that is there to help – not just a salesperson. To put it bluntly, a well-rehearsed sales pitch is not the most important thing your reps can work on. It’s how they are connecting with that person and building a relationship that is key. In that spirit, here are a few techniques for your sales teams to try out to improve their relationship building:
Send a Coffee Break
Waiting on a response from a warm lead? Or simply reviewing your roster of meetings for the week? One of the best strategies I’ve used to create a meaningful moment for a contact is simply sending a digital gesture of gratitude to their favorite coffee chain, coupled with a note that I hope this little caffeine boost helps them get through their busy day. Short and sweet. No need to overcomplicate it. A small touchpoint to show you understand how busy the person is, that you are there to help them, and that you value their time, is all it takes to create a deeper level of engagement.
Get Curious About What Makes Them Tick
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own goals and interests, and for that focus to bleed through and color our interactions with prospects. This is part of the reason salespeople have developed a bad rap. Too often, we’re viewed as faking our way through conversations so that we can ultimately serve ourselves. On the contrary, the best salespeople know it’s all about relationships. I think one of the best ways to get around this prejudice and more meaningfully connect with your contacts is to show your appreciation for them and their time by simply asking some well-crafted questions. Look for opportunities to inquire, genuinely and deeply, about the person you’re trying to reach. Find out what makes them tick, what they value, what they’re trying to achieve in their role. Truly make the conversation about them.
Spread Some Goodwill with New Connections
If you’re anything like me, you’re on and off the LinkedIn app a dozen times a day. I’m always using the platform to connect with and grow my network. But sometimes it can feel awkward to kick off a brand new connection there. How do you make the transition from a LinkedIn connection to a fruitful relationship? Consider extending a small gesture of appreciation to make yourself stand out – like a small treat to an ice cream shop, or simply a personal offer to help the connection in any way you can, whether that means facilitating a new introduction for them or sharing some of their recent content.
Take Note of the Throwaway Comments
When I’m in conversation with a prospect or a client, whether that’s by phone, video or in-person, I always have a small notebook and a pen handy. I’ve trained myself to listen closely for those little throwaway comments and tiny details that could later be transformed into actions. Here’s an example: On the phone with a prospect recently, I overheard her small child in the background, and commented about it. We got into a brief conversation about her kids and I learned that her daughter had just turned 3 the previous Saturday. The conversation quickly moved on, but I didn’t miss the opportunity to note her daughter’s birth date and age. I then sent one of my favorite books from childhood to the prospect, with a happy birthday note for her daughter. This kind of thoughtful gesture is always noticed, always appreciated and often reciprocated with more time and attention.
Create an Additional Post-Introduction Touchpoint
Are you in the wake of your initial introduction or consultation with a prospect, and not sure what else you can do to engage? Beyond simply sending a thank-you and any follow-up items immediately following the conversation, what can a sales rep do to differentiate themselves and be remembered? I like to wait about a week to 10 days after that conversation, then buy the person lunch. And no, I don’t mean invite them to lunch; I mean send a digital certificate for a highly rated lunch spot near their home or office, coupled with a simple, friendly note. This gesture never fails to prompt a reaction, and often leads to more robust conversation.
When you build relationships like this throughout a sales process, you will always come out on top. People will remember you for your kindness and generosity and for being someone they like to do business with. A sales rep can’t make every sale, but the reality is there’s more going on than just selling a product or service. When salespeople make genuine investments in their business relationships, those deposits will grow, mature and compound over time.
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