Post by Bonnie Marcus, contributing Women On Business writer
Building relationships is critical for the success of any business. It is important to have powerful sustaining relationships with customers, prospects, and fellow employees. Relationship building is much easier when we adopt the mindset that everyone is our customer and apply simple sales techniques to each interaction.
Putting our own agenda aside and focusing on the other party is the key to establishing a good relationship. As sales professionals, we work hard to prepare for our sales calls and presentations. We memorize the features and benefits of our product and services in hopes of having the opportunity to acquaint someone with what we are selling. Once we are actually in front of a prospect, it’s all we can do to hold back from blurting out everything all at once; telling our prospect about what we are selling and how beneficial it is for them to buy what we are selling. This is can be ineffective and even backfire.
If we enter into a monologue about our product without any knowledge of what our prospect wants and needs, how effective can that be? Compare it to a telemarketing call you might receive. The telemarketer has a set script to sell you something and probably doesn’t have much, if any, information about you. They talk AT you and you can barely get in a word to tell them you’re not interested. When you are on the receiving end of this type of sales pitch, how does that make you feel? Are you open to listening? What are the chances you would purchase something from this scenario?
Management also requires a similar approach to establish rapport. How effective would a meeting be with an employee when there is a monologue and no chance for participation by both parties? In our daily interactions with internal customers (our employees, supervisors, Board of Directors), good communication skills are imperative. Establishing a relationship with your employees, finding out what goals they have, what interests and talents they possess, and then assisting them to reach those goals benefits the employee, you, and the company.
When a customer calls with a complaint about your product and services, it is so easy to forget this approach and tune out the customer. Yet, the more we actively listen and engage the customer, the more likely we are to resolve the issue and provide good customer service.
Basic sales skills are all that is required to engage the other person in any of these types of situations, sales activities, customer service, and managing employees. Leave all the assumptions behind and create an open exchange or dialogue to learn more about the individual.
Here are some simple sales techniques to create that open communication and help to build strong relationships. They are simple yet take practice to master.
1. Use open-ended questions.
Questions that begin with “how”, “when”, “where”, and “why” help to quickly engage the prospect to start talking as these questions cannot be answered by a simple yes or no response. These questions are very effective in getting people to “open up”.
2. Actively listen
Active listening requires you to tune out your own inner voice and focus on what the other person is telling you and what they are really saying. Give them some type of sign that you are listening through body language or verbal affirmations.
“So what I hear you saying is….” Make sure that you fully understand what is being said by checking in and clarifying through the course of the conversation.
4. Acknowledge and validate
When you acknowledge and validate you are demonstrating that you respect and understand the other person’s position. This is important in building a relationship.
5. Make no assumptions
It is so easy to overlook this important skill. In order to fully understand another person, we need to stay open to listening to them without any filters. This is difficult to accomplish but once we let go of assumptions, it is a powerful way to connect with someone.
6. Focus on the other person’s agenda
Let go of your canned sales pitch and your own agenda and trust that a focused dialogue with the individual will be more effective and can yield important information that can assist you in closing a sale or building a relationship.
7. Detach from the process
Try to keep your ego out of the conversation and agenda. Once you let this go, you will be surprised how any resistance to your pitch or your conversation can dissolve. This forces you to put your own agenda aside and not push your ideas and thoughts on the other person.
Remember: It’s not all about YOU. It’s about building the relationship. What’s important to your customers, your employees, and everyone with whom you interact should be important to you. It is important for the success of your business.