9 Steps to Sales and Long-Term Customer Relationships

Strong market changes are setting new challenges; your salespeople are increasingly having to compete with competitors on price. What can you do about it?

  • How are you differentiating your products and services from your competitors?
  • How much do you really know about your customers’ business drivers? How well do you really know your client?
  • How much business are you chasing that you have no chance of winning?
  • How much extra business can you get from your existing customers that you have not pursued yet?
  • How can you keep your customers?
  • How often does a salesman visiting a client have to deal with accounts, logistics or administration issues before they get to sales?
  • Do you have a coherent, congruent set of competencies, behaviours, performance management and leadership processes in place to outperform your competitors, win more business and build long term relations with clients, whilst maintaining margin and market share?
  • Is your business judged by its actions or its intentions?

All these questions have been raised and addressed by companies that have transformed from ‘following the trend’ in their sector to ‘bucking the trend’ and outperforming in their sector.

The four key elements to solving this puzzle include sales discipline, relationship skills, account planning and selling value.

The universal truth of any business is that if no one is buying what you are selling, you’re not in business.

Before we go on to explore what makes a good salesperson and what sort of salesperson can act as a barrier to sales, we should clarify a few things:

1. Focus on profit is a very good thing, as long as it comes after focus on providing the customer with their solution.

2. Influence is the backbone of every human interaction; in any conversation both parties will always be influenced. The best way to influence people is to stop trying to influence them.

3. No matter who you are speaking to, you are always selling something (whether it is an ideal, a product, point of view or yourself), so know what you want to sell whenever you speak, but first find out what your customer wants.

4. The best kind of business is repeat business.

Statistics indicate that the average business spends about six times more time and money on attracting new customers as it does on keeping old ones. Old customers can provide you with referrals, will continue buying your product, will become loyal to your brand and if they are really happy with you they will become walking, talking advertisements…And the best thing is, it’s absolutely free! For maintaining relationships that are this important to your business you look to the person at the front line of communication with these customers, your sales people!

Cultivating Long-Term Customer Relationships

So the question is; how do you, as a salesperson or manager of salespeople, create and cultivate this long lasting relationship?

It is all about your focus and intention in your interactions with your customers;

Step 1

Prepare yourself! Know everything you can possibly know about a customer or client, whether you are selling beds or executive training. Even more importantly than that; know what you need to find out from the customer. What information do you need to match their wants and needs to the features and benefits of your product or service? Preparation and planning prevents poor performance!

Step 2

Opening is your introduction to the client, you are not talking about a product or business; you are finding common ground, calibrating, listening and making your first impression.
Be aware! Some clients prefer the opening to be long and friendly, others want to get straight down to business. Identify their preference and follow their lead.

Step 3

Rapport is the foundation of building trust. This is where we build a relationship, when we are in sync or on the same wavelength and feel similar and/or relate well to each other. There are a number of techniques that are used in building rapport such as: matching your body language (i.e., posture, gesture, etc.); matching voice tonality; maintaining eye contact; and matching breathing rhythm.

Step 4

Need and Wants. At this stage, what you want to sell is irrelevant. What your customer wants to buy is what is important to them, and to you! The skill is asking questions and listening empathically to establish what the client really wants, how this will affect them, what problems they have experienced in the past and what are the consequences to them if they continue in the same pattern. Your questions are determined by the client’s last response. This is the time when you demonstrate commitment to the client. Use the ‘hook and spade’ technique to asking questions, become a great listener to get to the heart of the client’s challenges, wants and needs.

Step 5

Paraphrase everything the client has told you, using their language wherever possible, ask them if there is anything else that is important to them. Challenge what they have said, to make sure they have told you everything, so you are not caught out later on with any objections.
Use paraphrasing to demonstrate you have been listening and you are committed to getting them what they want.

Step 6

Down to business! Make your proposal and link features to benefits. A feature is what your product does; a benefit is how it helps the customer.

E.g. Feature: Our training is delivered and tailored for all areas of your company.
E.g. Benefit: Every area of your company will grow together ensuring that the change is long lasting and companywide and delivers a positive return on investment.
Clients care about what affects them.
Be precise with your proposal and in each case match the features and benefits of your product to the needs and wants that the client has detailed to you.

Step 7

Paraphrase. Re-cap their needs and wants, how the features and benefits overcome their challenges and ask again, if there is anything else that is important to them. It may be the appropriate time to establish when they want to implement the change they seek and re-establish the importance and benefit of setting a timeframe to completion.

Step 8

Close. Partner with your customer, work with them to find the perfect solution that answers all their questions and together make sure that the solution you are proposing is viable. This is your opportunity to show you care about their experience once they have put their trust in you. Any problems are ‘our’ problems; any solutions are for both of us. You are looking for a WIN WIN, so the customer goes away feeling like he/she has won a prize by consulting you as their Trusted Advisor.

Step 9

After Sales Service! Just the same as when you buy a holiday, computer, car or house, the support you get after any purchase will often determine how the client will reflect on their acquisition.

Follow up after the purchase with a call, a visit or even an email if nothing else is possible. Ask if there is any more help that they need and care about the answer they give, dig for things to help them with. This is where you can cultivate a repeat buy or an eager referral.
This process is ongoing; maintain the relationship and your clients will become your best referrers.

‘It is the chocolate on the pillow that makes the ordinary extraordinary.’

Your customers are the only reason you have a business and your relationship with them will be the reason they buy from you consistently. Salespeople are your front line of communication and your route to an ongoing relationship with your customers, they can be the success and failure of your business and your most important investment in terms of time and money.

If you manage a sales force then ask yourself: Do I commit enough resources to my team?

If you are a salesperson then ask yourself: Do I commit enough resources to myself?

Positive Change Partners work with organisations to embed the positive behaviours that impact the bottom line through training workshops, coaching, strategic planning and consultancy. We are based in Surrey, England and have a prestigious client base in London and throughout the UK and Europe. We also work internationally with global organisations. 

If you would like to speak with us please call 01342 837660 or email info@positivechangepartners.com