06 Sep Are Relationships Dead? Results of Our Client Survey
Question: Has relationship building changed to the point that “being a friend” does not apply any longer? What is really important to customers in terms of relationships?
Answer: While relationships are certainly important to any business, it may surprise you to learn that being a “friend” is not. This is according to a study that Impact Sales and DVR Learning recently researched for clients of ours. If you haven’t already, you should ask your customers that question, “What’s important to you in a client/supplier relationship?” The word “relationship” is rather complex in that there are many important factors that determine a business relationship.
Here are highlights from this study that you may be able to use as a starting point in determining what’s important to your customers. Customers were asked to rank the top three sales characteristics. These are listed in order of importance, (most to least).
1. Honesty – Hands down, this was the most important characteristic for salespeople to possess according to the participants of our study. Trust, integrity, and reliability cannot be overemphasized. If your customers attribute these characteristics to you, you are far more likely to be successful than your competition. Having these attributes will often overcome minor differences in product performance and price competitiveness. Specifically, customers expect salespeople to do what they say, and not exaggerate performance claims.
Tip: Do what you say you will do, always! Set realistic expectations so you can exceed them.
2. Technical Competence – This particular characteristic was most important to customers in the 41-64 age group. Additionally, participants indicated that they expected sales reps to be able to answer questions about their products and services that pertain specifically to their application.
Tip: Take advantage of technical training offered by your company or others that pertain to your industry/product line. Or, team sell by bringing technical people with you on sales calls.
3. Follows-Up – Whether asked to or not, customers in this study indicated that they expected salespeople to follow-up with them during and after the sales process. Simply dropping off a proposal and waiting for a reply doesn’t cut it. This characteristic was more important to small to medium sized businesses than large.
Tip: After delivering a proposal, contact the customer at least once within the first three days to answer any questions, concerns and affirm their decision.
4. Provides Relevant Information – This pertains specifically to the amount and quality of information provided on sales calls. Most customers felt that customers who used a feature/benefit approach to selling were wasting their time. Those that applied the information directly to improving the customer’s operation scored highly.
Tip: When utilizing product information, stress what the product will do for that particular customer, not what the product does in general.
5. Uses Company Resources – Salespersons who employed expertise within their own company to solve customer problems scored well. I.e. – bringing a technical person or company representative on sales calls.
Tip: Invite a technical representative to visit with technical representatives within your customer operations. They may learn things that you can’t to help you provide solutions.
6. Knows My Operation/Presents New Ideas – Salespersons who scored high in customer relationship building were those that spent time learning about the customer’s business and provided insights to help the customer achieve their goals. They were seen as visible within the client organization.
Tip: Take a tour of your customer’s business at least annually. Ask good strategic questions to determine what’s working well and what should be improved in your customer’s business.
7. Best Prices – This characteristic was stated most by those under the age of 35. Those over 35 tended to list overall value as more important than up-front cost or price.
Tip: Demonstrate that your product will outlast or outperform the competition, then the overall price of the product was not as much of a factor.
8. Good Communication – Your ability to differentiate between your customers and adapt to their communication preferences is key to success. Customers stating this attribute as important emphasized the ability of salespeople to provide clear & timely communication.
Tip: Adjust to the behavioral and communication style of your customer. For example, be direct with those that are direct. Provide facts for those that are methodical. Use e-mails to communicate with visuals, voice mail for auditories.
9. Calls Frequently/Is A Friend – Only 6% of respondents listed these attributes in the top three. When listed, they were most important to small business than large.
Tip: Don’t rely on friendship to earn sales for you! While friendships are important to some, there are more important sales characteristics that impact business relationships.