You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship. If I had known that early in my career, I would have saved a lot of deals, not to mention lifelong relationships.
Relationships are everything in sales. This has been true for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. And it’s still true today. While times have changed some (you don’t have to wine and dine or hit the golf course with prospects these days), a strong relationship is still foundational.
So what exactly is relationship selling and how can you leverage it in your organization? Well, today we’re going to demystify relationship selling and really break it down. I like to think of relationships as the 3 C’s: Connect, Care, and Contribute.
If you consistently follow the 3 C’s of relationship selling, the business and money will no doubt come, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll make a lasting impact on the world, your community, and the people around you. So let’s get to it!
CONNECT with your prospect
Now look, every touch isn’t a sales touch. Some touches should be friendly, conversational talk about shared interests. If you do your research, you’ll learn things about your prospect. Maybe they live near the beach, root for the Yankees, enjoy playing tennis, and drink fine wine. Find common ground and really connect with your buyer.
Then, once you get to know him or her better, you’ll connect on more personal things, like “Hey, how was the Cape last week?” or “How are the kids doing since school started?” The point is, you first have to connect with your prospect to build a relationship. If you go straight in for the pitch, you’re missing out on the secret ingredient (also the main ingredient!) which is trust. Build trust by connecting with prospects as if they are your friends.
In fact, it’s best to not even think about your product or service at the early stages if you can help it. Instead, prioritize getting to know the person. Share something personal — just not too personal — about your life. Take the time to build a bond. This is critical in high-ticket sales, especially when reaching out to the C-suite or when doing account-based selling.
One of the easiest ways to connect with prospects is by having a shared connection. Mutual connections make the world go round in sales. So all the more reason to always be asking for referrals.
CARE for your prospect
Ever been to a doctor who actually sits there, listens to you, and truly cares? It’s a night-and-day difference compared to the average experience. If a doctor listens to my concerns, takes my calls, calls me back, and asks about my kids and upcoming vacation, then I’m never going anywhere else (provided they also give good care).
This bedside manner isn’t only for the medical field – it’s for the sales field, too. You need to spend time with your prospects and show that you truly care. Let me rephrase that. You don’t need to show that you truly care, instead, you just need to truly care! It’ll show itself. And this isn’t only for your prospects; you also need to be fostering a caring relationship with existing clients over time.
You need to find a delicate balance though, as some people really overdo it. Don’t grovel. For instance, you don’t need to send monthly gifts to your customers or clients, but a little something around the holidays is a nice gesture and shows you care. But more important than gifts is your time. Free up time to reach out with a personal touch every so often. Maybe not every week (c-level execs are busy!), but maybe once monthly or at least once per quarter.
CONTRIBUTE to your prospect’s success
Finally, aim to add value for your prospect to help them succeed. This will look different depending on your industry or sector. But the bottom line is you have to consistently contribute value over the course of your relationship.
Contribute by sending helpful resources. Contribute with your big ideas. Contribute by being a trusted advisor who’s always there to help. And look for opportunities to go above and beyond, contributing with something that WOWs your prospect or client from time to time.
Now THIS is sales. We’re not just talking about a transaction of money for goods/services. That might be the definition of sales… but real-life sales is all about the packaged experience. It’s more than just a gizmo or gadget. Sales is the orbit of value and goodwill that you draw your customer or client into.
With this in mind, a great salesperson puts the customer first and looks for ways to connect, care, and contribute. Their quota and commissions come secondary, as their primary focus is being there for others.
If it’s helpful, you can think of relationships as a strategy to land new customers, or a way to keep in good graces with existing customers. But it’s better if you don’t think of it that way. It’s better if you become the type of person who prioritizes relationships.
Why? Because authenticity matters. And if relationship building is just another tool in your toolbelt, your buyer will sniff it out from a mile away. Of course, it’s still better than not trying to build a relationship at all, but it’s not the ideal approach. The ideal approach is to build the relationship like you mean it. Be a friend. Be a comrade. Be someone they can trust.
At the end of the day, you don’t want your buyer to feel like one OF a million. You want them to feel like one IN a million. So remember… sales isn’t about pitching products. Sales isn’t even about selling yourself. It’s about authentic connection, caring, and contribution. Do this, solve real problems, and everything else will fall into place. You’re bound to become the top-performing salesperson or sales organization around.
Until next time…