Building relationships in sales is not enough. You need to challenge them to buy.
By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
From consultative selling to the hard close, sales methodology comes in fads. Most of the methods that have been presented over the years amount to techniques rather than an overall selling style. Being successful in the sales profession requires a well-rounded understanding of a number of techniques and the ability to apply them while in the midst of a sales call. In my experience successfully closing the sale required rapidly pivoting on which benefits I emphasized or in which techniques I used to influence the conversation. Style and technique aside, though, the dialogue around sales theory revolves around the role of the relationship between buyer and seller.
On one end of the spectrum, some of the more completely consultative approaches emphasize the client relationship above everything else in the sales process. These philosophies put the sales person on a path to become one with the needs of their client. Indisputably, understanding and addressing their needs and concerns is central to retaining a base of satisfied customers. However, completing the sale requires moving beyond information gathering. Going from discovery to conversion requires a willingness to start challenging their assumptions.
At a fundamental level, selling involves tension. Without a certain amount of stress, there is no imperative to change from their current situation. Selling requires either manufacturing or bringing to light tensions that the prospect may have in their present situation. Conventional wisdom suggests that the prospect is moved from their current position towards a purchase out of stressors in their existing situation as well as fear of missing out on opportunities that will yield benefits down the road.
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The stress that is required to move a prospect forward is rarely a pleasant thing for a prospect to endure. It is not enough for a seller to exclusively play the “nice guy”. Instead, a sales professional needs to be able use their relationship to guide the prospect through these stresses towards the desired outcome. Successfully doing this means having a willingness to push the buyer to confront the reality of their current situation and experience the fear of not acting on the information presented to them.
In contrast to the success seen be sales reps willing to challenge their prospects assumptions, Harvard Business Review notes that it is sales reps who are categorized as relationship builders who are the weakest performers. Their exclusive focus on client relationships makes them less willing to jeopardize them by asserting a position, even if that position is exactly what the prospect needs to take their business to the next level. In this dynamic, we’re reminded that selling is not about relationships, so much as relationships that do work. In sales, developing relationships only become useful when they progress down the sales pipeline toward becoming a client.
Next time you develop a relationship with a prospective client, consider what that relationship is worth and from where that value derives. Will you be besties? Not likely, and that’s okay. However, if you’re willing to diligently learn their needs and present the right solution without wavering, then you just might end up with a new client.