Relationship Selling: Developing New Business and Engaging Prospects
Most industries, including ours, are relationship based — but if you're a relationship-driven salesperson, you understand the challenges that exist in building new relationships, especially over the past 15+ months. You also know how important relationships are for your success.
However, the new hybrid work model that is being widely adapted around the world creates a new set of challenges. The question for today's column is this:
"How do we build new relationships when our prospects are embracing hybrid work?"
Before we dive into the answer to our question, let's make sure we understand relationship selling. According to an article published by LinkedIn, relationship selling refers to the sales technique that focuses on the interaction between the buyer and the salesperson, rather than the price or details of the product.
But what really is relationship based selling? In essence, the salesperson cultivates a strong relationship with their customers and prospects and builds rapport. How? By providing consistent value over time that demonstrates the benefits of working together.
The relationship is based on trust, knowledge of each other's needs, understanding the value you and your organization offer, and how you approach the business problems your prospect faces. And there’s no doubt — our clients and prospects are facing a lot of challenges right now.
The long-term goal of relationship selling is to increase customer brand loyalty and retention, which leads to longer, more beneficial, and more profitable relationships — a better ROI, if you will. Influential relationships come from you (and your organization) investing time and effort into researching your prospects, gaining a complete understanding of their needs and business problems, and most importantly, realizing how you solve those problems.
Why Relationship Selling Matters for Business Growth
In today's sales environment, intentional and strategic relationship selling matters more than ever, because the simple process of building relationships takes longer in the hybrid workplace. It's much harder to build relationships with moving targets, who are sometimes in the office and work remotely at other times.
But relationship selling is still key, because customer experience is one of the most important selling points today — and we must create an experience that makes them want to engage with us, do business with us, and refer us to others.
Selling to today’s customers really comes down to showing them that we have a vested interest in their success — that we care about them and their business, and solving their problems is more important to us than seeing them pull out a checkbook.
How to Engage Prospects for Relationship Selling in a Hybrid World
There are a variety of ways to engage your prospects and build relationships with them that lead to new business. One strategy is to use social media platforms, such as LinkedIn or Instagram, to connect consistently and quickly with anyone who might be interested in the solutions that you provide. Initiate conversations surrounding their biggest pain points and business problems.
The good news is — there are some really practical, everyday ways to apply the strategy of social media and start engaging with prospects online. The easiest thing to do is engage with the content that your prospect is posting. It’s an easy, natural way to start a conversation — by posting something, they’re literally asking their community to engage… so, do it!
Another strategy to engage your prospects is relationship networking. This method of developing relationships requires you, as the salesperson, to step out and intentionally build a network with people such as friends, family members, clients, and prospects — and honestly we don't practice simple relationship networking like this enough.
One practical way you can apply the strategy of relationship networking is to ask for a referral. It might sound daunting, but simply by sending an email and asking for introductions to someone new that you’d like to connect with — your boldness and initiative will be impressive right off the bat. The key here is to know who it is you want to connect with (and why), and that requires some research. It might take you several months to come across someone on your timeline or connected through mutual acquaintances that you want to build a relationship with — the people you’re looking for are those that you could learn from and even potentially partner with in business.
It's better to block some time on your calendar to research who you want to connect with, then see how you are connected to them and ask for a referral from that person. I get these requests all the time, and while the practice of referrals is something that job seekers typically do really well — referrals are a business development strategy and a massive networking opportunity that we ALL need to embrace.
Practical Tips to Get Started
Sharing information with you is important, but giving you practical tips that you can put into action today is even more important. So as you start practicing relationship selling in business, here are 3 tips I want you to keep in mind:
The first thing is relationship marketing. It could mean anything from inviting someone for coffee (and virtual is good too), or sending them an article that would be of interest to them. The idea is just reaching out and connecting with people who might not know you or your company very well, but may be interested in what you have to offer.
— Pro Tip: Do your research first and make a list of people you want to connect with (and anything specific that might be of interest to them).
The second thing is relationship networking. Maybe this sounds similar to relationship marketing but there’s a distinct difference here. Relationship networking means that you are creating relationships with people who already know you and/or your company, so they can refer or recommend you when the time comes for them (or someone they know) to make a purchase decision.
These are the people already in your network, the people you connect with naturally in business. Networking and word-of-mouth referrals can lead to more business than almost any other method — people talk, especially when they’re impressed!
— Pro Tip: Start with your existing customers that haven't purchased from you in the past 3 years. Check in on them, see how they are doing, and ask for a referral.
The third thing to remember as you develop business relationships is basic relationship selling. It’s your job to continue to understand the needs of your clients and prospects on a personal level, along with what they value in a relationship, so you can position yourself as someone who will be able to provide an answer for their everyday concerns.
— Pro Tip: Create a case study of a project you completed, highlight the problem you solved (do NOT focus on the product you sold) — then share that with old, current, and new potential clients.
At the end of the day, we need to understand that sales is a long-game, and building relationships with new prospects in a hybrid workforce takes time and consistent effort. I saved the best for last, and my bonus pro tip for you is this:
— Pro Tip: Plan part of your day, every day, to focus on building relationships in this hybrid workforce we’re finding ourselves in.
Be sure to visit my blog at www.sidmeadows.com/blog, and let me know the progress you are making in your business relationships!