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People today are bombarded with messages from morning until night. We can’t check email or drive to the store without seeing flashing banners, mostly aimed at selling us something.
Today’s consumers are experts at tuning these messages out, leaving salespeople with an important question: Do you ensure your message is seen and heard? Connecting with clients today is often about building trust. Here’s where you can start.
1. Get to know your customers as well as their goals
Everyone has needs. Building lasting relationships with your clients is all about helping them solve problems. Customers are far more likely to buy from you if they see value in it. Your products and services should improve your customers’ lives in ways they want (not just ways you want).
A great test for you is to make sure you know how the product you’re selling to someone enhances their life before you recommend it. If you can’t answer the question, “How does this really help my customer?” then you’re not ready to sell.
How do you do this? Ask open-ended questions. Ask: “What’s most important to you right now?” or “What are some of your goals with this?” It doesn’t matter if you’re a travel agent, a financial advisor or selling makeup in a department store. If you haven’t figured out what’s important to your customer, you are not ready to sell.
Ideally, you want to be able to say the following words: “You said” or “I heard.” If you’re the salesperson on the floor of a car dealership, it might sound like this: “You said that safety is your most important consideration because of your kids and gas mileage is number two because of your budget. Since those are your two most important considerations, I want to make the following recommendation.” Ultimately, your client should feel you care about them and their success (because you do).
2. Be transparent
Almost always, people can sense when someone isn’t forthcoming with them. When building a relationship with a client, level with them. If your product has a potential drawback, tell them. Don’t push it under the rug or gloss over it. Sure, it might be a year before that annual fee starts to hit, but don’t “forget” to mention it. It can be scary to present information that might hinder the sale, but strong, ethical salespeople with integrity do it anyway.
If your client asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t bluff your way through it. Again, people can usually tell when this happening. Never say things like “probably,” “I think” or “my guess is.” If you’re only partly sure about how something works, seek more concrete information. Find a better answer. Usually, your client will respect you for having the courage to say: “I honestly don’t know the answer to that but let me find out and get back to you.” Making up an answer almost always comes back to bite you — and once your reputation has been damaged, it’s often hard to recover and rebuild it.
3. Ask tough questions
All too often, we’re eager to hear what someone likes about us or our products. It’s not nearly as fun to hear what they don’t like. Ask anyway. It’s easy to assume that if someone hasn’t stated any reservations, they don’t have them. That’s not always true.
Get comfortable with asking your clients about their concerns or what might hold them back from deciding to buy. You can’t address what’s not being said, so invite your prospective clients to be real with you and put it all on the table. Once it’s there, you can then respond to it. Don’t shy away from information you don’t want to hear.
4. Make and keep commitments
When you’re attempting to earn someone’s trust, there are few things worse than saying you’ll do something and then not following through. If you promised to send additional information over, make sure you’ll do it. If you promised a follow-up call to check in, make sure you do it.
I can’t tell you how many times someone who’s trying to earn my business has broken a promise to me. People regularly promise to get back in touch, send a prospectus or brochure and then simply “forget.” Following through on what you said you’d do helps build your credibility. Most people want to believe the messenger just as much as they want to believe the message. So, be a reliable messenger. If you’re not true to your word, how can a prospective client believe anything else you said is true?
5. Remain patient and stay in touch
Not everyone makes decisions on the spot. Some people need extra time after the initial conversation to think your proposal over. Sometimes this might take days or even months. People have different risk tolerances. Some want to consult with their spouse or the primary decision-maker in their household. Buying decisions can be difficult for people, as they sometimes involve a change to someone’s routines or life. Some like to consider other options. Some simply like to sleep on it. Embrace this.
Great sales associates don’t get flustered or impatient when someone is taking time to decide what’s right for them. Don’t disappear. Stay in touch with your clients. When people are in the market for a product or service, they’re eventually going to give their business to someone — and usually, it’s the person who they’ve had the most contact with.
Schedule follow-up calls with people or periodically send them relevant information. Reach back out and stay in touch. Make yourself available to answer questions. In general, familiarity breeds liking. Unless you’ve explicitly been told “no,” stay involved.
Doing these five things will increase your chances that you’ll eventually earn the business. Not only will these steps help you earn the initial business, but they’ll help you retain your clients and keep them coming back for more.