Relationship selling goes beyond emotional intelligence to a disposition of being other-focused to such a degree that you are in tune with others’ emotions, hopes, and desires – and with how you can meet those needs. You can’t change anyone but yourself, so working on yourself is the best place to begin your journey of relationship selling.
A barbell has two separate ends. One part comprises the tactical action steps that you might consider; the other part, the more cerebral part, focuses on your strategic approach. Typically you develop your strategy and then implement via tactics. These concepts work together, and both have value. When you read about tactics, you may believe I am being too prescriptive. Please take a leap of faith when you think I am being too detailed. I say this because I believe these tactics will help you. I have seen this approach help countless leaders who were really good but couldn’t transform into really awesome.
The other end of the tactical barbell is the other end of the spectrum, the strategy. Changing a strategic vision will cause discomfort in a company but can lead to transformational change. Big ideas, high concepts, and bold visions are the substance of what makes our country amazing. Being able to clearly articulate the strategy behind a vision, concept, or big idea is where a lot of people get tripped up and fall short of acceptance. The strategic parts are not prescriptive; they require you to take a blank canvas and paint what is an ideal for you, your family, and your clients and prospects. You change things by providing the strongest foundation to stand your idea upon and then helping people to understand the idea and agree with you. That may not be selling a product, but it is selling an idea in which you believe. That makes you a salesperson.
In the spirit of keeping it simple, think about building relationships around these four key segments:
Family – Learn about their family and their family history. Family is usually closest to the heart, so it is a good investment of your time. Birthdays, anniversaries and key dates are important to know and to keep track of. It may take time to learn about the family part from a prospect, but it usually ends up being a very meaningful part of your relationship. Some people do not want you to probe into their personal lives, especially at the start of a relationship. Be sensitive to any pushback when discussing personal information. Over time it has been my experience that as you share things about yourself, people will share things about themselves.
Organization– Learn about their history at their current organization as well as other firms where they worked. This is also the time to see where they went to school and what their focus has been since graduating. I have found that these probes are the easiest part of the conversation to have. You may want to start with this area because it can lead to discussing the other aspects of the conversation. A best practice would be to view a person’s professional LinkedIn profile. You can also learn how they got to into their current industry and how they ended up at their current company.
Recreation– Learn what people do for fun. Finding out what is important to them outside of work is usually more important than what you learn about their current work. This is an opportunity to see what organizations they belong to and what charitable boards and groups they have a passion for. Get your prospects talking about what gets them excited on the weekend, or about special events in which they like to participate. Recreation can be an easy conversation starter when you have clients on the phone or face-to-face. When you discuss after-work activities or weekend activities, you get people excited. You connect at a more personal, not professional level.
Dreams– Learn about someone’s long-term dreams and aspirations. Dreams can be the most intense part of your conversations; these tend to be very personal and intrinsic to the client or prospect. You don’t start a conversation with, “Tell me about your dreams.” Over time you can begin to probe deeper.
John Richard Pierce, Jr., spent more than 20 years at Merrill Lynch and Ameriprise. He earned his MBA from The University of London and lives in Philadelphia. John’s LinkedIn profile provides his background in detail or you can visit johnpierceconsulting.com. This article is an excerpt from his book, Sell More and Sleep at Night, which is available in multiple formats via Amazon.