Why amping up your sales teams’ relationship skills could be the most profitable thing you do this year
People buy from you when they know you, like you, and trust you. But is that all?
If you’re in sales, you’ve heard this before, and while it’s as true today as it ever was, there’s so much more to the story.
We are living in interesting times, and the sales function has evolved in recent years. Whereas decades ago, taking a human-centred approach to sales was novel, today it’s intrinsic to the way we do business.
Earning a prospect’s attention, let alone their trust, requires a deep level of authenticity and self-awareness, and an understanding of how we impact others and how they perceive us. Failure to develop these skills on your sales team could result in your prospects creating distance rather than being available for you.
Why traditional sales methodologies fail
The pandemic changed us.
It changed our relationships, our expectations, and the way we relate to each other. We learned that, when we greet someone with, “how are you,” we need to listen for a genuine answer. We learned the importance of checking in with people, and that the ‘company’ we’re selling to isn’t a company at all. It’s a collection of real people, and each person has their own goals and concerns, and are under the same stress as the rest of us, even if they express it differently.
Traditional sales methodologies look at process and strategy, but we believe that true influence is a result of developing the right dynamic between your salesperson and your customer.
Old approaches to sales; cold calling, high-volume networking, fear-based selling, etc., may still have a role to play in your strategy, but unless your sales professionals understand how to weave elements of self-awareness and authenticity into their approach, these tactics are likely to be received with apathy or indifference at best, and hostility at worst.
Why must we upskill our sales teams right now?
We’ve all been through too much to react to business the way we reacted five years ago. We’re too busy, too stressed, too uncertain about the future.
Knowing, liking, and trusting simply isn’t enough.
Today’s consumers want to feel SAFE, and you don’t achieve that with a flashy slide deck. You achieve that with enriching conversations, deep relationships and acting as a trusted advisor with the client’s true interests at heart.
How do you make your prospects feel safe?
It’s important to train salespeople to see the person behind the customer.
It feels like this should come naturally to most, but the individuals on your sales team are as diverse as the prospects they’re working to influence, and each prospect requires a different approach to create a meaningful relationship.
A good place to start is developing self-awareness about how we ourselves show up in relationships, and how we ourselves react to different personalities. Only then can we expand our awareness to how we impact others.
Through a deep understanding of oneself and others, salespeople can manage the impact they have on prospects and influence better outcomes.
Think of it like this: You can have the same intent for multiple conversations, but no two conversations will ever be the same. What you’re selling may be the same, but you – and the person to whom your speaking – are different and will create a different dynamic. That dynamic may help move the sales effort along or throw it entirely off track.
The key to success is the salesperson’s ability to adapt differently to each prospect, creating a dynamic that works for them, yet to remain grounded in their authentic and self-aware selves.
Why invest in a person-centred approach to sales?
The title of this section is a bit like asking, ‘what’s the value in being happy.’ Not only does adopting a person-centred approach feel more natural and rewarding for both the salesperson and the prospect, but there’s also a powerful business argument to be made:
Meaningful customer focus
Ask yourself what your prospect really needs. Sure, they need a programme to do x,y & z, but WHY? And how is this goal of value to them personally? Furthermore, how can that be communicated in a way that is meaningful to them? For example, would it be better to focus on data and subject matter expertise, or to focus on building the personal relationship and open sharing of hopes and concerns?
More closing opportunities
When we see our prospects as a whole person, with their own hopes and fears, and we take the time to actively listen to what’s happening in their workplace, we can anticipate and prepare for objections and concerns.
Most importantly, those ‘handling objections’ conversations don’t devolve into a competition (at which point the sale is lost anyways,) because the salesperson knows how to keep the conversation in a place where the prospect feels safe enough to express their concerns without feeling the need to challenge.
We’d all like to think we’re empathetic, but in reality, we’re not. Truly being able to adopt another’s frame of reference, their phenomenology, without judgement or agenda takes time to learn. But it’s a powerful skill that empowers salespeople to become versatile throughout all interactions while maintaining that trust-building authenticity.
A faster sales cycle
Back in 2014, Implisit analysed hundreds of companies using Salesforce for B2B sales and found that the average time to convert a lead to an opportunity is 84 days, and 13% convert[i].
The average time to convert an opportunity into a deal is only 18 days, but only 6% convert.
Of course these numbers vary from sector to sector and channel to channel, but the point is to get you thinking about your team’s existing close rate, and what it would mean to the business to increase either the rate itself or the time it takes to get there.
Now factor in faster and more effective onboarding of new salespeople. This article is not about team effectiveness, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that an employee who’s trained to have self-awareness, who can read and adapt to others, is going to be an effective force on the team and can impact positive outcomes quickly.
Better customer retention and loyalty
The finance bros have had their day.
In a post-pandemic business environment, your customers are searching for meaning in their roles and their interactions, which is why the best sales leaders know that self-awareness and true empathy is critical to establishing successful and long-term relationships.
Those solid relationships are foundational to a company’s ability to reactivate and reengage clients and increase account penetration with active clients.
Although much of this article focuses on new client acquisition, when it comes down to brass tacks, it costs more to acquire a new client than retain an existing one, which is why the ROI of building deep connections with others can have a massive impact on your bottom line.