What do you need to grow sales in business? A good product or service? Experienced salespeople? A beautiful, user-friendly website? A strong marketing strategy backed up by the latest digital tools?
All of the above are essential of course – but despite all the digital bells and whistles we now have at our disposal, any experienced salesperson will tell you that there’s still no substitute for good relationships when it comes to driving sales and boosting customer loyalty.
So why are relationships so important in sales?
Relationships matter because no matter how hard we try to be logical, data-driven creatures, humans are highly emotional beings. We make a lot of our decisions based on emotions and instincts – it’s just the way we are programmed.
This means that when it comes to buying products or services, we are influenced by the way we feel – whether we think we’re getting good value for money, whether our purchase will improve our lives or status, whether we’ll be praised for making good choices, and whether we can trust that our purchase will fulfil all of our expectations. When buying a product or service for the first time, this last point is critical, because in the absence of first-hand experience of the product or service, this trust is built largely on our relationship with the person or business we’re buying from.
Think about it like this: if you’ve been using the same printer for small items like labels, flyers and business cards for a few years, who are you going to approach when you need new signage or a banner stand? Even if your ‘usual guy’ is a little more expensive than the new place down the street, having that existing relationship adds value and keeps you coming back for a service you can trust.
So how can you build trust, especially with new and prospective customers?
Once you’ve made a sale, you’ve got a good foundation from which to build a relationship with your customer. You provide them with a good quality product or service, at a price they like, and make sure they get good aftersales support. They come back again and again, and over time you get to know them better, so you can tailor your service even more to meet their needs. Depending on the sector and size of business, you may even be lucky enough to one day count that customer as a personal friend.
But what about customers that don’t already know you? How can you start to build a relationship and grow trust, before they’ve made a purchase? Here are some tips:
A major advantage of digital tools and social media is that it allows us to ‘get to know’ people we’ve never even met. Of course, we’re not suggesting you should stalk your customers online – but you can use these tools to find out more about them, and understand how your business can benefit them. Checking out the LinkedIn page for a prospective client’s business, for example, gives you an insight into their upcoming activities and potentially even their challenges, so you can tailor your own marketing messages to catch their attention. Many popular CRM tools allow you to build client profiles or personas, which in turn can help you to adapt your offering to better suit their needs.
Connecting with potential customers on social media can also kick off a mutually beneficial relationship – if they’re interested in your industry, and you’re sharing content that demonstrates your expertise or adds value for them in some way, they’re much more likely to look you up next time they’re in the market to make a purchase.
Show your authority
When we’re making a big purchase from a new supplier – especially in business – it can feel as if we’re taking a risk. And when we’re in risky situations, humans tend to seek reassurance from authoritative figures. By establishing yourself as an authority in your field, you can provide reassurance to new customers that they’re buying from a reputable source that will provide them with quality products or services, and good aftercare. You can grow your authority in lots of different ways, such as attending recognised events and exhibitions for your industry; obtaining any relevant industry accreditations or affiliations available to you; and presenting your own knowledge and expertise in the form of regular, informative content online or in print, using your own outlets or those of relevant industry bodies you have access to.
It’s all too easy to focus on the many tools and strategies you can try to boost sales while forgetting to simply treat your customer like a person, not just a potential client. Never underestimate the power of simply asking somebody how they are before you launch into your sales pitch, and be alert to opportunities where you can help your clients or community out – not because it will win you favours, but because it’s the right thing to do. As the famous saying goes: ‘People will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’