Your Client Network May Not be as Strong as You Think
Proficiency in sales is a desired objective for individuals interested in building their professional selling skills. It denotes competence, expertise, know-how, and mastery. Yet, certain proficiencies can lead sales professionals into traps that sabotage relationships with clients. In this series of posts, I will share four proficiency traps and how to avoid them. The first was The Technical Trap; the second, The Execution Trap; and this third involves networking within the client organization.
Your Professional Selling Skills Can Be Improved by Focusing on Constant Networking
Sales professionals are usually quite good at building a network of relationships within client organizations. The trap they fall into, however, is taking these networks for granted. They fail to track how the structure, politics, or budget priorities change over time, and they overlook relationships that should be cultivated with other influential stakeholders.
Some buyer-seller relationships have been so longstanding that sales professionals begin to feel a little too secure. They may have earned trusted advisor status with key stakeholders and built a large network of contacts at different levels. This is all good — until it isn’t.
Few, if any, client organizations are static. Change can be fast or slow; come in spurts or be ongoing. In an increasingly challenging sales environment, change is to be expected and anticipated. Political alliances will shift, new people will move into decision-making roles, procurement staff can become a bigger part of the process, and key contacts will leave the company.
You can fall into the Networking Trap when you feel secure about your client relationship, based on the strength and scope of your existing contact network, without understanding how underlying forces may already be changing the relationships that really need to be cultivated.
As changes occur within a client organization, key relationship factors can shift for each of the contacts in your network. Your previous understanding of a contact’s level of influence in the organization, role in buying decisions, motivating behaviors, alignment with your company, and depth of interaction with you can all become quickly obsolete.
One way to improve your professional selling skills and avoid the networking trap is to maintain an evolving relationship map that identifies where you currently have a solid foundation of support and which contacts you need to connect with and cultivate. By periodically reexamining and testing how the key relationship factors are changing for each contact, any new vulnerabilities will be revealed, and you will be better prepared to adjust your networking strategy.
Networking within a client organization is an ongoing process. Anticipating change and being vigilant about the impact on your client relationships will enable you to cultivate the right contacts and remain well-positioned with your client, both now and into the future.
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