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Understanding Your Customers and Building Long-Term Relationships

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Driving a flashier car or having the nicest custom-tailored suit is not going to help you beat your sales quota this month. The best way to increase sales and build lifelong relationships with your customers is to understand the factors that affect their world and gain insight into what they think about you.

The following information provides a window into your customer’s brain, and will help you understand what makes them tick and how you can turn that knowledge into sales.

What are the factors impacting your customers right now?

Walking into a sales call without understanding the concerns of your customer is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute…it’s not going to end well.

But going into that call with a good understanding of your target’s industry and the challenges they face can provide an opportunity. Specifically, you can put yourself in the context of those challenges. Show the customer how you meet a specific concern that is impacting their business.

Among common concerns of today’s businesses are:
  • Economic uncertainty
  • Customer issues
  • Supply problems
  • Human resources
  • Globalization pressures
  • Manufacturing issues
  • General life stress
Before you walk into a sales call, take the time to think about these factors. Find a way to position yourself in such a way that you are actually helping solve these problems. The customer will appreciate the depth of your knowledge and will look to you as more of a trustworthy figure.

Important statistics about your customer and the sales process

Now that you have a much better idea about the concerns of your customers, and the things that keep them up at night, let’s take a quick look at how they view the sales process and what keeps them from handing that check over at the end of your presentation:
  • 83% of sales professionals fail to differentiate themselves from the competition.
  • 65% of sales professionals surveyed feel they are working harder, but closing fewer sales.
  • 86% of sales professionals ask the wrong questions.
  • 81% of lead opportunities are lost during the initial contact.
  • The average length of a sales cycle has increased by 20%.
  • 65% percent of the time a salesperson spends will not result in any new business.
  • 79% of messages left for prospects go unanswered.
  • The average closing ratio is 25%.
What is interesting about these findings is that they run counter to how salespeople see their own performance. These are the same areas that most salespeople view as strengths! It is important to look at these numbers from this perspective — and make adjustments accordingly.

Becoming the trusted advisor

In order to build a long-term relationship with a customer, a salesperson must climb up the ladder of trust and value. There are three basic categories of how customers think about their potential business partners:
  • Vendor — A vendor is little more than the person we buy stuff from, and if there were other options, we would explore them. All this guy cares about is making a buck.
  • Supplier — Supplies products and provides a mediocre level of value, but the price is hard to beat.
  • Trusted advisor — The best of the best. Without this person, our business would struggle.
In order to achieve a productive, mutually beneficial long-term relationship with our customer, we must strive towards achieving trusted advisor status! Many will not get there, but the dogged pursuit of this status will drive outstanding relationships.

Trusted advisor status is the pinnacle of sales success, it is the top of the mountain that few people reach. Not because it is unattainable, but because it takes effort, and there is no instant gratification for your efforts.

Summary: In order to achieve long-term success in any market, we must:
  • Understand the customer’s situation
  • Realize that customers view us differently than we view ourselves.
  • Work hard to become the trusted advisor!
About the Author

Henry Pellerin is president and founder of VantaEDGE, Inc. and co-author of The Strategic Selling Process. VantaEDGE, Inc. provides customized sales training, consultation, and facilitation services. Henry personally has over 17 years of experience in sales, sales management, and business development which he shares with clients to help them receive the same results he has attained year after year.

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Popular tags:

 business partners  customers  The Strategic Selling Process  long-term relationships  sales process  gains  traditions  industry

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