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To succeed, every sales professional knows that his/her product or service has to meet an identified customer need. However, equally important, especially, beyond the initial sale is “connecting” with the client on a personal and professional level, building a relationship.
Creating market awareness can be done more easily through the use of technology. Company websites and social media have vastly improved the reach of a small business. Email and text messaging have, further, made it so much easier to communicate with prospects and customers, but, at the same time, less easy to really “connect” with them.
It seems that with the wider acceptance and use of technology tools, like websites, social media, email and texting, too many small business owners are abdicating relationship building to technology. We appear to be drifting away from “face-to-face” contact and real relationships. Much, if not all of our correspondence, often from the first touch, is through email. There’s less telephone contact.
By and large, though, people still buy from people. The better a prospect knows the prospective vendor, not just his/her product, the more likely they are to buy. And the deeper the relationship, the more likely they are to keep coming back and buying more.
Technology in the form of websites, social media, email, text messaging are but tools in your bag. For sales professionals, they should not define how you grow your network and your customer base. But what should, is how you best leverage and use those tools to build a relationship with your prospect and customer base on an ongoing basis.
Here are 4 key ways to do that:
1. Establish a “connection” before you establish a sale.
Know as much about your prospect, as possible, before you ever engage with them. Having a prospect profile is where technology provides a bonafide edge. Not only use the search engines, but search the various social media sites.
Then you can build the foundation for a relationship with them based on what their professional background and interests are; where their personal interests lie, and how they interact, socially.
Knowledge such as this enables you to ask questions and develop a dialogue based on what you’ve learned to create a “connection” right out of the chute.
2. Meet with them “face-to-face.”
As the small business owner, make it a point to visit key customers at their location, at least once per year. Obviously, you can’t do this with every customer but for your top revenue generators or those who are key “influencers” in your market. You will never waste time or money invested in this kind of endeavor! Sometimes, visiting them at their site is not economically feasible. But, there are industry trade shows where you can set up meetings, or you can just set up a video conference on Skype. Putting a face to a voice, a personality to an email makes all the difference. Stop being just “pen pals” — because if the email is the sole basis of your relationship, that’s all you are!
3. Make customers the “star” of your story.
Once you’ve established a relationship, find ways to promote that relationship by making them the “star” of your sales story through a case study using your product/service or a guest blog appearance on your website, or an example situation in some of your sales materials.
4. Get customers talking to other customers.
Nothing solidifies a relationship more than mutuality, kind of like “friends of friends.” It’s confirmation that there are others who also value the product/service and the relationship. It also provides a basis for customers’ understanding other uses for the product/service and a comparative aspect to each customer’s relationship. If you can get enough of them talking, and if your product lends itself to it, you can create a users’ group that becomes invaluable as a source for both customer references and customer requirements.
Fulfilling customer needs are critical to selling your product/service, but creating a “connection,” building a relationship is the key to longer-term success for a small business. Don’t let technology be your only tool. People buy from people.
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