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Fostering Long-Term Relationships: The Key to a Successful Salesman

Todd Lenhart

September 24th, 2015

Build Long Term Relationship for a Successful Sales Career

Despite the fast-paced world that we live in where we are constantly meeting new people, we often do not allow ourselves the ability to connect with individuals beyond trying to entice them on a product we are looking to sell. Part of the reason why many of us overlook the importance of building long-term relationships is because they are difficult. Long-lasting relationships take time and effort on our part, which many of us do not have, in order to create an environment where an individual feels that they are truly valued and not just another name on a potential client list.

It is human nature for us to do what is most convenient at any particular given time. As it pertains to relationship building, the most convenient relationship is the one that is right in front of us. To avoid reverting back on our basic instincts, it must be a priority to make meaningful connections not just with those whom we come into contact with presently but also those past and future clients as well.

Whether you are an entry-level sales representative or a high level sales consultant with clients across the globe, fostering long-term relationships vital. Today, we will discuss four ways to effectively build long-lasting relationships that will allow you to manage your time efficiently between past and future clients in order to maximize your revenue stream.

1)  A Relationship Tool: Bonding

The ability to create a bond between yourself and another person is a key component to a successful long-term relationship, but you cannot pretend to share something with another person. It must be REAL. Bonding leads to relationships where none previously existed.

Many of us want to bond with those we meet in the workplace, conventions, and other professional atmospheres but lack the necessary tools to accomplish such a relationship.

Start with Interests. Interests help to find a common ground with another individual that will allow your initial meeting to feel like a conversation rather than a sales pitch. From interests you can move onto finding more about their goals, an important step when evaluating how to negotiate a sale on your product.

Body Language. Never forget that more information is communicated nonverbally than verbally.  This means that you must be conscious of the way you present yourself.

It’s a balance. Bonding requires a two-way communication that should be beneficial for both parties.

2)  “Get what you want, while helping them get what they want”

Create a win-win situation. Yes, we know this is an overused cliché, but when you create a win-win situation you are able satisfy your interests while still catering to the needs of your client in order to achieve an outcome that satisfies everyone.  A win-win situation establishes a history of positive interaction between parties that builds trust and confidence in one another, key components to any successful long-term relationship.

Many times as competitive professionals, we focus solely on winning and more accurately, winning now. When we do this, we end up creating a win-lose situation where the deal we are set on achieving is so lop-sided that it fosters resentment in the other party.

The concern for our immediate successes in a win-lose situation prevent us from the prospect of future deals with clients and we lose out on the intangible benefits of long-term relationships. Always focus on satisfying your interests but allow your clients to satisfy their interests as well.

The best way to get what you want is to help the other side get some of what they want.

3)  Maintain an Ongoing Dialogue even when you are not looking to Sell

Relationships are made not just when we are looking to make a sale but also when we are NOT looking to make a sale.  Checking in on clients periodically during a dead period can not only spark future sales, but it engages your client in a way that makes them feel valued and not just another name on a list.

Little things such as this can go a long way when you try to re-connect with that same client to make a future sale. The relationships you foster now, lead to a positive reception to future sales inquiries and a willingness to, at a minimum, listen to your sales pitch.

A real-life example of maintaining an ongoing dialogue with clients is SNI’s own, Ron Shapiro. Ron is an expert negotiator, sports agent, attorney, educator, New York Times Bestselling Author, and Civic Leader who interacts with new people on a daily basis.  With his busy schedule, Ron still manages to send a holiday card every year to his past clients.  Even if Ron’s only form of communication with these clients is a yearly holiday card, this simple gesture reminds his clients that Ron is thinking about them.

Something so simple, and often overlooked, can make a big difference when re-connecting with past clients to engage them in a future sale.

4)  Efficiently Manage your time: 80/20 Rule

Long-term relationships help to build your client base, but in the end those relationships must generate sales in order to be worthwhile. The often referred to “80/20 rule” outlines that 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients.

All clients are not created equal. As we begin to focus on making meaningful connections with our clients, we sometimes lose sight of those who actually generate significant sales. We must highlight the 20% that generate 80% of our sales. Trying to please all clients at all times is inefficient and, as I am sure most of you have encountered before, nearly impossible.

Be realistic. The old saying goes… time is money, but your time is also limited. We must properly allocate our time to those individuals that generate a significant portion of our sales. Long-term relationships are important BUT we must never lose sight of our end goal—to maximize sales.

Emphasize your time on maintaining the 20% of your relationships that provide 80% of your revenue. Remind yourself that sometimes less is more when relationship building because as we discussed in Tip #1, relationships create a bond that only lasts if it is REAL. Long-term relationships foster a trusting connection between individuals that is real, enhancing your successes not only now but in the future as well.

About the author

Todd Lenhart

Principal at Shapiro Negotiations Institute. Partner with Fortune 1000 companies across the world to institutionalize core negotiation and influencing skills. SNI has a proven track record helping professionals close more deals, faster at higher margins.

  • Love this post Todd! Agree 100%. Sales (and business in general) is about building relationships and offering value.

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