Sales, Networking Strategies to Build Strong Relationships



Sometimes, we have to visit our past as lessons for our business future. Is it your experience, too?

When doing some cleaning, I came across some treasures from my high school years. That included a carbon copy of a thank you letter I wrote to the publisher of The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs.

He had given me a scholarship to attend a 10-day workshop at USC with 14 other high school journalists from throughout southern California. It brought back some very fond memories.

eventfile000213537000Key ingredient

Thank you letters matter, but it’s become a lost art in favor of e-mails and uttering the trite phrase, “Have a nice day.” Ugh.

The irony is that thank you letters create a self-feeling of optimism — a key ingredient for climbing the corporate ladder or to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Writing that letter also reminded me how business processes have evolved over the years.

In my talks before college students, audience members chuckle when hearing about how we first used manual typewriters, then electric typewriters followed by self-correcting machines, word processors, fax machines and computers.

Now, watch sales are down in young demographics as the focus for many students is handheld devices for nearly everything they do, including checking the time.

But it is a surprise they’re discovering vinyl records, but they laugh when I describe the process of playing 45 rpm records as a DJ in working my way through college. To many such students, the idea of writing a thank you letter is foreign.

Even in my misspent youth, I did manage to win scholarships, and I always wrote thank you letters to the benefactors. One of them — four years later after I graduated from college — helped me in my job search.

Whom you know

One of the lessons I learned very early was “It isn’t what you know. It’s whom you know.” Knowledge has always been essential. But the ability to sustain strong relationships was and is both gratifying and important for success.

Jobs were obtained and business profits were earned by old-fashioned networking. Building relationships gave companies an entre to customers. They made money by outperforming their competitors and by creating new niches.

That’s still true for profitable companies.

Branding and benefit statements, or value propositions, build a strong image. Most customers prefer to buy from companies they respect and trust. Ironically, customers buy more products when they feel comfortable – not necessarily to get the lowest prices.

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.”
-William Clement Stone

First impressions

So don’t damage your branding by being the low-price leader in your niche. Only 18 percent of consumers buy on price alone. Ignore that market. It’s all about trust and value. Create an impression of value. And first impressions count.

If you stage countless sales, it will condition and numb your customers. The urgency to buy disappears. Focus on the 82 percent of customers who buy for value. There are five motivating perceptions for customers to buy from you. For such value-minded customers, price is only one consideration. (More on that later in the Coach’s Corner.)

Consistency is vital. Customers don’t like negative surprises, and that’s why they often patronize national restaurant brands because they know to expect when the food is brought to their table.

Attitude is important.

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect,” said William Clement Stone, who made millions selling insurance. He coined the acronym, PMA, for positive mental attitude.

Many sales have been lost because the salesperson gave up or failed to continue to deliver valuable information. Customers feel comfortable in sales situations when the salesperson listens during a minimum 80 percent of the discussions.

That’s when customers start revealing their needs and requirements. Ironically, when customers actually do most of the talking, they believe the salespeople are good communicators when they get straight answers from their questions.

Sales IQ

For a simple gauge of your sales opportunities, evaluate the sales aptitude of your employees and you, personally.

There is some overlap, but to be certain about being thorough, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Are we showing empathy about the customer’s problems or requests?
  2. Are we taking the right steps to help the customer feel significant?
  3. Are we giving the customer enough attention?
  4. If there’s a disagreement, do we use diplomacy?
  5. Do we act as if the customer is the reason for our business?

If any of the answers are “no”, the place to start is to ask open-ended questions to avoid close-ended answers. Then, find a need and fill it. Don’t forget to show gratitude and prevent buyer’s remorse.

Thank you letters matter, but it’s become a lost art in favor of e-mails and uttering the trite phrase, “Have a nice day.” Ugh.

Networking

Here are seven tips for networking at meetings:

  1. Rehearse your approach the day before. Know your elevator speech with differentiating benefit statements. Visualize having a good time.
  2. At the meeting, smile.
  3. Appear to be more approachable by continuing to stand.
  4. Be assertive. Don’t wait for people to approach you. Shake hands firmly. Be enthusiastic and quietly confident.
  5. Ask open-ended questions. Show interest. Don’t give away your power. The more you know about them, the better your chances for success. And the people you meet will conclude you’re a brilliant conversationalist.
  6. End the chat by showing gratitude and appreciation. Shake hands. Exchange business cards. Get an agreement on what you’ll do next as a follow-up. Don’t leave without giving the prospect a statement to prevent buyer’s remorse (e.g. “you’ll be delighted with…”)
  7. As you soon as you discretely can, make notes on the back of the person’s card. If appropriate, send a thoughtful, handwritten note. In it, remind the person of your value propositions – based on their concerns. Include a thank you for their consideration, reiterate your buyer’s remorse statement, and reiterate your next step.

The ability to build and sustain relationships remains paramount for success.

From the Coach’s Corner, this article, The Seven Steps to Higher Sales, has the secrets for sales success – seven steps to higher sales, five value perceptions that motivate customers to buy, and the three-step process for overcoming sales objections.

“The less things change, the more they remain the same.”

                                          -Sicilian proverb


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.