Keys to relationship selling
September 26, 2022 | 10:31 am CDT

Photo By Martin Magnemyr/Pexels

Selling is not scary! We do it every day. One way or another, that is how all of us earn a paycheck. Whether you’re selling yourself in a job interview, creating a business plan to pitch to a bank, or convincing your staff to try new software, no matter who you are, nothing happens until a “sale” is made. Now, obviously, it is easier to sell to someone that already trusts you. That old phrase comes to mind: “People buy from people they like and trust.”

How do you become that person?

You can become that person if you do it on purpose. You also must remember that relationships take work. 

Tim Coleman is division manager of SCE Unlimited Chicago, a division of Installed Building Products (IBP).

It starts with a plan for developing a relationship with each of your clients. There is a great book, “Raving Fans,” that explains how just a few of your customers can propel your business to the next level. How? They must believe in you, and they must believe that they have a relationship with you.

The following is a list that you can use to begin to lay out your plan for how you do business, live your life, enjoy hobbies, participate in associations, stay active in clubs, and devote time to church and volunteer projects. All of these play an important role in developing relationships to the point that when they think of your product and service, they think of you in a good and helpful way.

People like to talk about themselves; encourage that in your relationships. 
a.    Know their interests
    i.  Sports teams
    ii.  Hobbies: music,
          fishing, gardening
    iii.  Volunteer activities 
    iv.  Alma Mater
b.    Know their family and friends
Children’s names and schools 
    ii.  Family interests
    iii.  Friends’ hobbies 
          and activities
c.    Know their business 
    i.  How can you help them? 
        Possible introductions from 
        your family/friends/customers
    ii.  Share industry articles 
         or current news

Find reasons to stay in touch. If you care about them, they will reciprocate and consequently, whenever your product or services come up, they will reach out to you, and your business will grow. 

As I developed this idea of relationship selling and shared its concepts and systems, people asked if this was manipulative. I believe that it is only manipulative if you do not have a genuine concern for your clients. Most people have a radar for insincerity, and this plan will backfire on you if you do not approach relationship building in the honest spirit that I am presenting here. However, if you develop client relationships in a truthful and forthright manner it will produce excellent business results and possibly long-lasting friends. 

Early on, I wondered, “how can I find smart business entrepreneurs and convince them to mentor me?” I joined the Chamber of Commerce, the local Homebuilders Association, and a nearby country club, where I learned how to golf for the first time. Over the next several years, I listened and learned a lot from the people I met who I felt were smarter than me. I got to know as many individuals at those various clubs and organizations as I could.

That investment of my time paid off exponentially and can be demonstrated in a favorite anecdote of mine. I was engaged in a conversation at one of those clubs with a friend of mine who built custom homes. Someone came up to me, asked a question, and I ended up making a business appointment. When the person left, my builder friend looked at me and said, “You are the only person I know that takes more money out of this club than puts in.” This incident was humorous but true! Why? Because I had developed relationships, worked those relationships in a positive way, and built mutual trust with the people I met. 

Another example of building a relationship that led to mutually beneficial business growth involved my old butcher. He was the son of a Chicago butcher who decided to drive west to plant his own roots and ended up opening his new shop right across the street from my showroom. Being a good neighbor, I walked over to introduce myself and found out that he, like me, was Italian. We immediately established a warm and humorous connection over Italian food. As our community developed, I met with scores of people who moved to our neighborhood. I would usually find a way to tell them about this butcher. I believed in him and his business and discovered that he believed in me as well. We enjoyed a mutual desire to help each other’s business that continues all these years later. 

I shared both of those stories to demonstrate that good business sense and living a good life are interconnected. When you combine a quality product that you believe in with a genuine desire to help others by sharing that product with them, then selling just becomes all about developing relationships.

I started this idea of relationship selling by buying 4-inch by 6-inch index cards years ago, eventually making them into a printed form. There are now very powerful CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programs available. Not only will this type of software help you to record details like addresses, phone numbers, and email, but it will also help to create reminders, and send emails, or even postcards automatically, which helps you develop relationships with your customers on purpose.

Make the time to develop relationships. Remember, it takes work, but this type of work can be very profitable, fun, and rewarding.

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