Being in sales is an extremely difficult, fun, challenging, exciting, mundane, a grind, and cutthroat game. It’s exciting to finally get that “sale”, that pumps you up for the next one. Yet on the other hand you get extremely close to closing the deal and suddenly for things that are out of your control, whether competition, projects being pushed, the customer deciding to go a different route, and you lose the deal, which is demoralizing. You put in so much work, face-time, figuring out logistics, communicating internally and externally, blood, sweat, and tears. So with the excitement also comes the terms: it’s a dog eat dog world, a shark tank, cutthroat, kill what you eat and eat what you kill, and more.
So for the majority of people in sales/Business Development, it is to get to the sale as fast as possible. How soon can I convert an intro handshake to shipping an order to them? How fast can I get through the formalities of a meeting to the pitch? How can I get from point A to C while bypassing B? How can I close the deal with someone who has an extremely tight schedule and this is my first face-to-face with them? There are classes, courses, workshops, seminars, books, podcasts, Instagram accounts, and gurus that can teach you every way to sell, any style you need, how you can leverage certain things in your favor, etc. They are all great, they are all tools to have in your toolbox when the business side of the conversation begins to occur. They are all tactics that can be deployed in any circumstance where business is discussed.
The thing is the approach to a sale or a business transaction should not be the first thing on your mind. Or even on the agenda when first meeting someone. What should be focused on when meeting a new person, is EXACTLY that: the person. We all hear that people want to do business with people they like, trust, respect, and know. However if the conversations with someone don’t even approach the personal side of someone’s life, how can they like, trust, respect, and even know who they are dealing with? If you don’t know if they have a child in middle school who is having issues dealing with getting back in school, or someone who just got married, or someone who just moved into a new house and is shuffling through boxes, there is no commonality or bond. It simply becomes a transactional conversation.
The shortsightedness of making that deal leaves a LOT on the table. As salespeople our job isn’t to make the sale, it’s to understand our customer and their frustrations, aspirations, family dynamic, activities they are into, passions they want to pursue, and more. In a transactional conversation, you are simply skimming the surface of who you are dealing with. You aren’t fully engaging with who you are speaking with. You are speaking to them with the simple goal of some sort of transaction to occur by the end of the encounter.
Think about that. For the majority of the encounter, you are trying to get to the transaction. Have you ever been talking with your spouse, friend, or mentor and you are trying to figure out your next question or planning to make a point where you realize you have not really been engaged listening? I know I have (just ask my wife). So how do you really connect with someone, build a relationship (personal or professional), and gain their trust if you aren’t even listening to them? The thing is when I’m thinking of my counterpoint, or a question I want to ask mid-discussion, I am not fully engaged with them. Being an
Ending the transactional style encounters and swapping that for the relationship-building encounters will draw some great benefits to you and your goals. No longer will you view the customer as a customer, you will soon develop a relationship on some level. You will begin to be engaged with what’s going on with their lives, you will begin to connect with them and figure out similar interests and who knows even develop a friendship. A friendship? Shit man, this is a dog-eat-dog world, I don’t have time to make new friends. But aren’t friends someone that you: know, trust, like, and respect? THIS should be the goal of most introduction conversations, to build a friendship. I know it sounds foo-foo and light, but something I’ve seen over and over. Someone will keep giving someone a shot, even if the job was messed up because they like that person. There will be second and even third chances when things don’t go as planned, or there’s a ball dropped somewhere along the way. The customer probably has other friends that are facing the same issues they are or might know someone who you should speak to…aka a referral!
I always challenge people when meeting with potential clients for the first time to try to talk about anything BUT work. This is a fun exercise as we’ve been conditioned with the “customer” and “vendor” hierarchy, this challenges that and brings the “customer” level down to a personal level. The framing of your question or technique to get to the transaction fades, and you begin engaging. Once you begin engaging you aren’t clogged up by the opening in the conversation to do your pitch, you are focused on connecting with them, versus selling to them.
This will build stronger connections both professionally and personally.