Viewing Posts for: Henri Barber
Selling is a people-oriented business. Sales are made in the dialogue, person-to-person. The interaction may be face-to-face or over the phone, but the very essence of a successful outcome is based on trust between seller and buyer.
This means salespeople must be at their very best, bringing value to the table and to their customers. If, instead, they just push products, they sacrifice goodwill and trust. Their sales success is likely to be short-lived, not the basis of a long and mutually productive relationship.
Many articles have been written about the parade of scandals in the financial industry: overly aggressive sales goals leading to the unauthorized opening of accounts; funneling billions of wealthy customer accounts offshore; manipulating global interest rates; the whole subprime mortgage crisis. And such bad behavior extends beyond banking into other industries and the political environment, where instability and uncertainty are causing greater distrust among customers, who are increasingly wary of salespeople and selling tactics.
I recently read an article that called for a new business model, and while the writer was referring to the financial industry specifically, the advice applies more broadly. Companies need to focus more on advocating for their customers rather than exploiting customers to move more product. They need to make sure whoever is touching their customer — whether it’s someone in sales, service, or support — provides a uniform and positive customer experience. And while this should be needless to say, I’m » Continue Reading.
Rapport building is crucial, in fact, the most important advice for building rapport I can give is to make it as significant a part of the sales call as the Need Dialogue and Objection Resolution. This requires thorough preparation, and sales professionals need to acknowledge and embrace the opening element of rapport building. So, how can they do this?
Building Rapport Tip #1: Do your homework
Before any meeting, I do my research. I go to LinkedIn and Twitter and other social sites to look up the people I’m meeting with. I want to know what they’re interested in, what businesses they follow, what boards they sit on, what charities are important to them. This allows me to open with something connected to their interests.
“I know we want to get down to business, but before we start, I just want to commend you on your volunteer work with XYZ. I myself am on the board of ABC, so it sounds like we have a lot in common. I’d like to talk with you about that sometime.”
This kind of opener takes seconds and builds a bridge. The connection between our two volunteer endeavors is much more authentic than if I had commented on a fishing trophy hanging on the wall. Also, I haven’t taken too much time away from the meeting. My preparation allows rapport building to be shorter, more sincere, and more valuable » Continue Reading.
It seems to be a no-brainer that rapport building with customers is crucial for getting sales, however building rapport is a skill that many sales professionals struggle to master. But the reasons for doing so go well beyond any one sale or business engagement.
3 Reasons Rapport Building is Essential in Sales
The many reasons relationship and rapport building are essential include the following:
1) Rapport building is a critical step for any sales professional in earning the right to ask tough business questions in meetings and presentations. It is both difficult and awkward to ask tough questions if you haven’t earned the right to do so, and it’s hard to earn the right without some form of a relationship with the customer.
2) Consultative selling requires sales professionals to ask good, even penetrating, questions, and without the firm basis of an established relationship, these questions will never fly. If the customer thinks you’re asking questions just to get what you need to make a sale, it will be a short conversation indeed.
3) Rapport building is really about connecting. It’s about establishing a relationship. And the reason we, as sales professionals, do it is to set the stage for collaboration. We want to demonstrate our interest in win-win solutions, not win-lose. To do that, we have to empathize, show support, and acknowledge appropriately.
Rapport Building Helps You Earn the Right to » Continue Reading.
The ability to build rapport with others should be natural for sales professionals. It’s part human nature, part caring about customers, and a generous touch of sincere interest and curiosity.
Yet sales professionals often have a tough time establishing rapport. Even though they seem so sanguine and extroverted, they struggle with asking questions and probing gently about their customers’ personal lives and interests.
3 Reasons Sales Professionals Struggle to Build Rapport
1) Sales professionals may not see the need to build rapport, especially if they’re working with the same customers over and over again. A perfect example of this comes from one of my own clients. Its sales professionals call on the same handful of customers on a weekly basis. They’re so familiar with their customers that they go into meetings and jump right to business. They don’t understand the need to begin with some personal conversation first, and they question “wasting time” with small talk. What they don’t understand is the essential need to first establish personal links with their clients in each meeting. Moreover, they don’t understand what they’re sacrificing by not taking the time to discover if anything is new or different or if anything has changed with their customers or their business situations.
2) Sales professionals have been told that meetings should be strictly about business. This is old-school thinking, yet the perception persists. They’re afraid to spend too much time with small talk because they think » Continue Reading.
Providing a balance between asking good sales questions and providing good insights
Back before the days of Internet searches, salespeople could start conversations with, “Tell me about your business and what keeps you up at night.” Now, the answer would be: “I’m not here to educate you. I don’t have time to be your onboarding department. You’re supposed to know this stuff.”
If you ask sales questions that are too basic, to which you would have known the answer if you’d done your homework, you risk annoying the customer. And, if you ask too many questions, even good ones, one after another, it becomes an interrogation.
Winning Sales Approach – Asking vs. Telling
Over the past year, I’ve been involved in a number of significant sales training initiatives at Richardson with companies that had first invested heavily in other types of sales performance improvement programs. Each had been trying to make fundamental changes in their sales approach to match the constantly evolving B2B buying environment.
As one of our clients, a recently relayed chemical distribution company’s salespeople had taken another flavor of sales training, and while they liked the training, there was no sustainment of the learning. They weren’t using their new skills or changing their behaviors. Implementation and execution had suffered, and so they approached Richardson for sales training in blocking-and-tackling skills that could help in delivering the expected results.
When I have asked other clients about their experiences and why they’re interested in Richardson’s Consultative Selling Skills, they say things like this: “My guys have been trying to provoke new thinking and ideas, but they don’t have the credibility. They’re 24-years-old and trying to tell executives how they should run their business instead of asking good questions and establishing a meaningful dialogue. They just end up sounding arrogant.”
Age isn’t the issue here; it’s strategy and preparation. At Richardson, we believe that the strategy of telling vs. asking, especially without the proper preparation, can chill many deals. We are, after all, human beings, and we typically prefer a dialogue over monologue.
A consultative selling strategy » Continue Reading.
Preparation Is Key to a Successful Questioning Strategy
Asking good sales questions is a derivative of good preparation. That’s a given in my book. And I’ll give you a personal example that proves the point.
I was working on a sales opportunity with what has become one of Richardson’s largest clients. We were nearing the final presentation and would be going head-to-head against a major competitor in our industry. Our team would be presenting to a dozen people, and so we focused considerable energies on preparation. Before we even entered the room, we wanted to know what those 12 were thinking so that we could be sure to address their expectations in our questioning and presentation strategy.
I contacted each one of the 12 and was able to speak with ten people. In these individual conversations, I thanked them for their time and assured them that it would be time well spent because what is important to Richardson is what is important to them. I told them that I wanted to hear their individual views before meeting en masse so that I could understand their critical objectives for the meeting, what would be important for them to hear, and what they needed to walk away from the meeting knowing in order to make their decision.
When we all sat down together, our team had a good idea about the level of questions that we needed to pose and the insights that » Continue Reading.
Benchmarks to Becoming a Trusted Advisor
In our last blog post we discussed, as a trusted advisor, how to earn your seat at the table as part of the buying process so that you are able to help shape opportunities rather than just react to them. Today we are going to review the road to becoming a trusted advisor to buyers and the several relationship benchmarks that sales professionals need to keep in mind on their journey.
Few things are more important than preparation when meeting with a buyer. How well you prepare can immediately differentiate you from the competition. The focus of your efforts should cover three important areas:
Strategic impact: What business goals and objectives is the buyer supporting with this purchase? Buyer needs: What’s important to the buyer on both a business and personal level? Technical preparation: Do you have a thorough knowledge of the product or service you’re selling?
Being prepared in the right ways, focusing on these three areas, can go a long way toward securing that elusive second meeting with buyers, especially on the executive level. If you don’t ask the right questions, if you can’t provide executives something they don’t already know, why should they buy from you?
Another important consideration in your preparations is to focus on leading, not lagging, indicators of success. Doing so adds relevancy to the conversation.
At Richardson, » Continue Reading.