Influence instead of manipulation – that is relationship selling. Building connections rather than hijacking conversations with product/service offerings and pricing, creates longevity and loyalty between brands and customers. We sat with John Baluta, business development manager at Dale Carnegie, and Jane Fenton, associate executive director at Normandale Community College Foundation, to discuss strategies and best practices for relationship selling.
When most people hear the word “sales,” their mind tends to immediately think of shady car salespeople or harassing phone calls from random businesses (your car’s extended warranty is not up for renewal, we promise). Truth is, most sales are transactional – needs are met in a mutually beneficial way – but that doesn’t mean consumers have to experience a daunting encounter with a salesperson. A relationship-based sales approach can improve your closing/success rate with new customers and help retain existing customers.
“Most people don’t love to be sold. They love to buy! But they don’t love to be sold.” – John Baluta
The Power of Influence
As a sales expert, you should see sales as influencing and informing people to change their behaviors, perceptions and way of thinking. Sales as a solution is a methodology where a salesperson holistically considers a prospect’s needs in order to recommend specific products or services that will best accommodate their individual needs, problems and concerns. Solution selling is one of the best ways to sell with empathy – but can be very dangerous if the salesperson lacks integrity and misuses their power of influence. This is where manipulation comes into play.
Most Communication is Non-verbal
Say it with a smile – even when you don’t want to. Smile through the discomfort or whatever it is you’re feeling. Whether you’re meeting in person, via video chat or on the phone, it’s harder to feel negative emotions when you focus on maintaining positive body language. It’s rarely what you say, but how you say it.
Building Trust with A New Prospect
- Credibility: Integrity goes a long way! Hold yourself accountable for the promises and commitments you make.
- Honesty: It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Focus on delivering what you can based on what you know at the moment and ensure your prospect that you will uncover a solution to the problem when you have all the information.
- Timeliness: Do what you said you would do in a timely manner. Elevate your rapport with a strong follow-up routine. Depending on your initial outreach, there are various follow-up tactics, such as sending a thank you email with additional information, or following their LinkedIn profile and engaging with their posts.
- Reveal genuine interest: With virtual selling, you can use space to build connections by complimenting their scenery, inquiring about items in their background and asking questions. Identify their top needs, find out their goals and interests. Take notes during your meeting, use their name and make sure you pronounce it correctly.
Objections = Engagement
Objections happen – bad perceptions and experiences with your company or other organizations in your industry can leave a poor impression that can be reversed through informative conversations. Objections show engagement – it means your prospect is listening and they help identify possible shortcomings in your solution, which provides you with more information to improve your approach. You have to be your own product expert; you have to know what you offer and what those objections are going to be. Always acknowledge and clarify objections, and have a solution that addresses the concern.
You can’t answer every objection immediately, but you can prepare yourself ahead of time for quick responses. Questions to ask yourself: What have objections been in the past? What are possible alternatives if they say no?
Takeaways from Q&A
Q: What is a lost cause? When is it time to move on?
- If you’re approaching a major prospect for your organization and you’ve exhausted all your follow-up techniques and still received no response, it’s time to pivot. Look for a warm introduction. Who are they connected to that is influential? Do you have any clients that are connected to them?
- Don’t be afraid to move on. Sometimes no response, is a response – and that is okay! Shift your focus into other prospects and continue to build relationships with people who have a strong influence in your industry.
- John Baluta, business development manager at Dale Carnegie Minnesota, world leader in workplace development and training.
- John has an extensive background in sales, training, customer management and marketing. He is an innovative, energetic, productive and bold business development professional with over 20 years of award-winning experience in technology, healthcare and pharmaceuticals.
- Jane Fenton, associate executive director at Normandale Community College Foundation.
- Jane is a relationship-driven development professional with an impressive blend of non-profit leadership, donor development and fundraising experience. She is a skillful coordinator with a reputation for leading organizational outreach initiatives, bridging community, corporate, and multi-agency communications, and expanding program support and community engagement.