Are You Making a Sale or Making a Client for the Long Haul?

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Let's face it, a major challenge to the sales process is that it is often difficult to put the time and energy that goes into developing quality, long-standing relationships with every potential customer. More often, it is much easier to service the customer, make the sale, or accept their rejection and move on. Achieving and surpassing your goals determines success, not the 'warm and fuzzies' of building a relationship with prospects and clients, right? Wrong!

If you continually strive to build a relationship with potential or current clients, you'll find that even the toughest objections may not be the end of the relationship. Today's marketplace presents aggressive quotas and almost impossible deadlines. In that kind of environment, many salespeople focus on numbers of prospective clients rather than focusing on the quality of each relationship. For many sales professionals, thinking long term on a customer-to-customer basis does not seem to be worth the time. It can often be more difficult to think of what the customer could potentially purchase, who the customer could refer in the future or how long the customer may stay with the company.

The trick is, the sales strategy does not have to be an either/or plan. It is a proactive decision to have this long-term mindset before you speak with any prospective clients. To clarify this sales position, the following questions are imperative to ask:

Are you making a sale or making a customer for life?
Sara, a pharmaceutical sales representative hoped that her repeated visits to this doctor's office would eventually pay off, just like all the others. When she walked into this office today, she was met with a great amount of resistance. The nurse asked her to leave samples without the doctor's signature, a practice against Sara's company's (and personal) code of ethics. She stood her ground, upheld the code and disappointedly left the doctor's office, thinking she just lost a potentially large account. Eventually she was able to get past this rejection and change her focus to view this office as a long-term customer. Suddenly, this was just one objection that she had to find a way around. She persisted in visiting that office and eventually was asked to leave samples while she witnessed the doctor's signature.

Tip #1: Be proactive; envision successful long-term relationships with each and every client. How do you view your client relationships? Do you focus on that one large sale? Do you look at them as a lifelong customer? How you see this relationship can directly impact how you overcome objections. How you overcome objections directly impacts how successful you become!

Are your needs the same as the clients' needs?
Matt was in the market for a patio for his hew home. He kept negotiating with the contractor, trying to get a better price. They were both within $500, Matt knew if the price came down $500 he would be within his budget and would be comfortable moving forward. The contractor's position was, "We can't go down another $500 but we will throw in a fire pit." Neither Matt nor his wife had expressed interest in a fire pit even though it was a popular feature at the time. Matt could not be convinced, even after the offer was repeated.

Frustrated with the process, Matt found another contractor, one who listened to his wants and needs. The deal was signed, the patio was installed. While a patio is hardly a repeat purchase commodity for most customers - because of the quality of the work and product, and because the contractor was attentive to the customer's wants and needs - he ultimately had five more sales in the same neighborhood. When neighbors learned of Matt's positive experience and saw the finished product, they arranged to have patios installed, too.

Tip #2: Don't begin the sales process with what you think the customer wants.

Eliminate your preconceived ideas about the client's needs, as difficult as it may be. Of course you must do your research and learn about marketplace trends, however, nothing is more important that listening...and I mean listening 'hard'! Really dig in to determine if there is a difference between what the customer wants and what you think they want. This is important no matter how well you know your business, or how long you have been in this position. It is okay to suggest another feature or a suggestion, but if it is of no value to the customer, hear them, and respond accordingly.

Do you really 'like' your customers?
You can buy cheese and meat anywhere. However, there is a place that my wife and I frequent in Wisconsin that is a high quality Italian delicatessen where we always go to buy our meat and cheese. They are more expensive and a little out of our way. So, why would we regularly shop at this deli? They like us. At least, that is how we feel when we walk in.

We are greeted, by name, in the owner's enthusiastic Italian manner (shouting over the counter), then they ask about me, my family, and my business. They do this for every customer. They remember my name, my wife's name and they pick up where we left off, at the last visit. Every customer (and we continually witness this) is greeted in this same way. Nowadays, many retail outlets barely know their customers, can't seem to remember their names, nor do they seem to care. How has this deli set themselves apart? They are more expensive and are located out of the way, however, they like their customers and show it, each and every time. Of course, this individual attention is in addition to, not in place of, the high quality service and products they offer.

Tip# 3: Set yourself apart.
Even if you can't compete on price, you can set yourself apart on likeability. If asked, how many of your customers would say that you like them? Do your customers feel that you like them? Do you know their names, their spouse's or kid's names? Do you know how their business is doing? Do you know what they like to do in their free time? Where they like to vacation? How do you show this? List your actions that show this emotion. List actions that could show this? Start today to set yourself apart!

Frank Bucaro is an author, speaker and consultant who specializes in the benefits of ethics for business growth and personal success. Using a distinctive blend of humor and enthusiasm, Frank works to integrate ethical standards with solid business practices. His clients range from Fortune 500 companies to associations to small businesses. Frank's latest book, "Trust Me! Insights Into Ethical Leadership," highlights the unique role of ethics in leadership today.

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