Have you ever tried to make someone like you? Turns out relationships evolve over time. Seller attempts to accelerate the process can be awkward. Sales is a profession buyers generally don’t hold in high esteem. When calling at executive levels sellers may feel a buyer’s time is worth more than theirs. Taking Al Franken’s approach can be deadly:
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
When meeting buyers for the first time I suggest a good initial objective would be to have buyers conclude you are trustworthy. Steven Covey believed that in order to be deemed trustworthy the other party must conclude you are sincere and competent. I’d like to offer a few suggestions about the first few minutes of a buyer-seller relationship:
- Being sincere requires sellers to rise above stereotypical selling behavior. Right after shaking hands most salespeople thank buyers for their time. This means starting relationships as a subordinate. As an alternative after the handshake, say something like:
“I’m glad we could meet today.”
Thank buyers for their time after they’ve given it to you.
- Once the introduction has been made, if buyers don’t initiate small talk sellers must decide whether to attempt to establish rapport or get down to business. My suggestion is for sellers to be quiet for a few seconds to give buyers the opportunity to initiate small talk. If they don’t, give a brief introduction explaining the objectives for the call rather than try to force rapport. There are many instances where rapport will happen after the business portion of calls.
- Establishing competence is the next potential hurdle. Sellers should view executives as peers for the following reasons:
- They are subject matter experts and have forgotten more than buyers will ever know about offerings.
- They (or their companies) have experience helping other executives realize the potential value that can be realized through the usage of their offerings.
I hope these suggestions can allow you to “tee up” opportunities so that the need development that must take place will go more smoothly. Remember: Buying cycles begin when buyers share a business goal (or problem). Executives typically will NOT share goals with sellers they haven’t concluded are sincere and competent.
By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®