Q&A: Relationship-building: the secret to sales success

Q: What key challenges are sales teams facing?

From a sales perspective, the situation is pretty binary as budgets are frozen or significantly reduced and so sales cycles are longer and there are fewer opportunities to connect in the normal sense of the word. The professional world changed overnight to remote working and so organisations started looking inwards as they tried to find ways to navigate the “new normal”. This led to generally fewer conversations, which includes sales meetings, and there was a major reprioritisation around what was considered important.

Q: What does this reprioritisation mean for sales professionals?

It means they now have to focus on three important activities: prioritising, protecting and multi-threading.

Prioritising is necessary because the landscape has changed, so it’s about using data sources, analytics and news reports to decide where to invest your time most productively. That’s not to say you shouldn’t reach out to contacts in distressed industries to see how they’re doing, but it shouldn’t take up all your time.

In terms of protection, many companies are currently focusing their efforts on existing customers rather than new prospects. So it’s about becoming a trusted adviser and even challenging customers, asking why they’re taking a certain approach. People can often only see one way through a situation, but if you really get under the covers, understand their issues and concerns and show them other options, it becomes a journey you can make, and continue making, together.

As for multi-threading, that’s about ensuring you have multiple contacts in a client organisation. Relationships have always mattered, but they’re even more important in a current climate, where we’re seeing budget freezes, furloughs and people changing projects as priorities shift. The idea is that if you have a number of connections on the same account, you’re more likely to succeed than if you just have one.

Relationships are put at risk if sellers are unable to track what is happening with their buyers in a simple and effective way. Taking a multi-threading approach enables salespeople to see the entire decision-making circle so they can understand where any gaps exist or if there are any influencers they should connect with.

Q: What else do salespeople need to consider in terms of relationship-building?

A key issue is the cold versus warm outreach, which relates to the way you interact with customers. Cold outreach might mean indiscriminately sending out a generic email, which talks about how wonderful a product is, to your entire account list. The problem is customers will look at it, see it doesn’t apply to them and are likely to just delete it.

Warm outreach, on the other hand, involves researching the customer and their industry to understand their objectives and the pressures they face, before tailoring your messaging to offer them a more personalised approach. It’s about being empathetic and compassionate, but you also have to be authentic.

Relationships are put at risk if sellers are unable to track what is happening with their buyers in a simple and effective way

The warm approach takes more time and effort, but it means we’re treating customers with the respect they’re due and, in my experience, it does pay dividends. It goes back to the idea of being a trusted adviser. There’s so much uncertainty out there that the last thing a client wants at the moment is to feel someone’s trying to make them buy something they don’t see the value in. They want to know you’re in it together and your success is interlinked with theirs.

Q: What role does technology play?

Organisations have had to pivot very quickly, which means they’re increasingly having to lean towards a digital sales strategy. Building a strategic platform for teams to use may have been on companies’ to-do lists for a long time, but it’s now being expedited.

This is important because tools, such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, give you the opportunity to take a warm approach through networking, connecting and engaging with your customers. You can follow people of interest on a platform that enables you to talk about things of value to them.

It also makes sense to optimise your LinkedIn profile so, if a prospect or customer comes looking, they see a thought leader who can provide them with insights and information to help achieve their goals. It actively demonstrates you’re putting the customer first.

To find out more please visit business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions