A big part of establishing credibility and earning the right to be a supplier comes from a relationship that develops between the client and the supplier. People like to do business with people that they like. People do NOT like to do business with jerks.
One of the mistakes that many salespeople make is to focus too much on the relationship. They will have meetings with clients where the majority, if not all of the conversation will be about personal “stuff”. It might be a common interest or current events, it might be about family or something of interest happening in the city. Both parties will enjoy the conversation, but no business interests are advanced. This is actually a waste of time for both people … and sometimes when a client looks back on such a meeting they will be reluctant to spend more time with that salesperson, because they can’t afford to waste their productive work time.
“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.” Zig Ziglar
The right thing for a salesperson to do is to focus the majority of a sales call on business, because that will best serve the interests of both the client and the salesperson. Yes there should be some “rapport building’ through some personal conversation but it should never dominate the meeting.
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Abraham Lincoln.
Here is how I would make sure the meeting is productive:
Have a business goal (or several goals) for EVERY client meeting. Just some examples:
- Get an order;
- Get a referral;
- Understand a business issue;
- Understand future business opportunities;
- Understand the process of becoming a supplier.
Use an agenda.
- Keep it simple;
- Align it with your time constraints;
- Share it with the client, either ahead of time or at the meeting;
- Give the client input;
- Use it to demonstrate thoughtfulness about the meeting;
- Use it to demonstrate a desire to stay on time;
- Use it to ensure you reach your business objective;
- Use it to ensure no important topics are forgotten.
Experienced salespeople tend to have the agenda in their head after a while, which is deceiving to the new, junior people who think they should emulate their more experienced counterparts. Don’t take short cuts, especially if you are new to sales, new to a company or new to selling the product or service you represent. Be prepared, do the work!
Planning takes work. When clients see you come prepared then you build credibility. Building a relationship from a foundation of credibility will lead to more business. Spending whole business meetings talking about your favorite sports team is a waste of people’s time.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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