Sales Relationship-Building Strategy 1: Promoting Shared Values

In our April 16 post, we introduced five strategies for building stronger relationship commitment and trust in the selling process.  Now let’s dig a little deeper into one of these strategies:  promoting shared values.

What are “Shared Values?”

Shared values are simply beliefs or principles commonly agreed upon between exchange partners (customers, prospects, channel partners, etc.).  Strong shared values indicate two people are like-minded with regards to what is important or unimportant, and what is right or wrong.  While “shared values” sound like deep, complex sets of beliefs (they may be), they may also be fairly mundane interests like sports, hobbies or activities if they are truly important to the exchange partner.  Interestingly, shared values is the only component research has shown to impact both relationship commitment and trust at the same time. 

It’s a concept with which we’re all familiar.  Each of us has met people with whom we’ve “hit it off” very quickly.  Many times, the connection is made due to the discovery of some belief, practice or principle shared between us.  This can be as superficial as recognizing the person sitting next to you on a plane uses the same brand of computer, or as deep as finding yourself in the middle of a crisis and discovering another person  shares your same religious views.

Leveraging Shared Values for Enhancing Sales Performance

If you’ve been in sales for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the advice that upon entering a prospect’s office, you should look for ways to connect with what is important to him/her on an individual level.  Pictures of family on his desk?  Talk about your kids.  Golf trophies on her bookshelf?  Tell her about your trip to Pebble Beach.  Mercedes Benz emblem hanging around his neck?…(kidding).  All of these are indicators of some personal interest or value that could provide a connection point.  The goal, according to traditional thinking, is to establish personal rapport through aligning oneself with the prospect’s interest.  It’s sound advice, as honing in on personal interests is clearly an effective method for easing initial introductions. 

However, deeper relationship building requires expanding this practice beyond the initial meeting.  Salespeople should move past thinking of the method as just an ice-breaking gimmick, and instead, focus on ways to build a deeper shared value framework between them and their prospect or partner over the long-term.   

 Practically, what steps do we take to make this work?  Here are some key steps in the process:

  • Observe.  Make a concerted effort to become more aware of the interests and values of prospects and partners. 
  • Capture.  Make notes about the interests/values you uncover and capture these in your contact database for future reference. 
  • Review.  Revisit the values for your entire prospect list regularly so you’ll keep them fresh in your mind.
  • Collect.  Be on constant lookout for things you know will pique your prospects’ interest or tap into mutually shared values.  Simple things like news articles or pertinent websites are great.
  • Share.  Commit to passing along content that will be of interest to prospects and reinforce any shared values.  Don’t make a big deal out of your efforts, and don’t try to squeeze in a heavy sales pitch.  Just an “I saw this and thought of you” will suffice.

A word of caution is in order.  Trying to “force” shared values where none really exist will most likely backfire on you.  It is certainly fine to appear interested in your prospect’s passion for Bavarian enamel dinner plates, but pretending to have that same love without any real emotional tie will be easily detected, ultimately working against you.  Even if you don’t have a mutual level of interest in something, recognition of its importance to the prospect will go a long way.

You’ll be amazed at how much mileage you’ll get from tuning into shared values.  Practicing the simple steps outlined here will impress prospects and customers with your attention to detail and your personal interest.  Over time, you’ll build the relationship commitment and trust you seek, creating a long-term customer and a continuous source for new prospects and referrals.

All the best,

Lorin

For a FREE report entitled “Five Sales Rules to Break when Selling to the Government” email info@galainsolutions.com or visit http://www.galainsolutions.com.

Five Key Strategies for Building Selling Relationships

Many times, companies selling in complex markets seem to deploy a “passive-aggressive” sales strategy. They passively wait for an RFP to be issued within the company’s line of business. Then, once identified through a database or some other means, they aggressively activate hoards of people to figure out how to spin the response so they are favored. We believe this is a mistake.

Don’t misunderstand us. Responding to RFPs is certainly a requirement for playing in the government space; doing it effectively is both an art and a science. In fact, you’ll likely never be able to eliminate RFP responses completely.

However, if the bulk of your opportunity development strategy is built around uncovering and responding to RFPs through government or private databases, it’s going to be a difficult ride. You see, at the RFP stage, specifications are already set in stone and you’re too late to the party. All your competitors have the same information at the same time, and limited discovery can occur once the RFP is issued (plus any questions posed to prospects must be shared with everyone). This is not the ideal situation.

No, our real goal is to get in front of prospects BEFORE specifications are developed so we can have an impact on the requirements before they’re locked in. In fact, the ultimate picture of success here would be creating a sole source situation where competition is effectively excluded because your company is the only real option given the prospect’s needs—needs you helped define.

How, as a sales team, do you get in the door before the RFP is issued? It’s all about relationship-building, and it’s as critical to success in government selling as it is in other arenas.  We’ll discuss this topic in greater detail over the coming blog posts, but here is an overview of five key strategies for improving relationships:

Five Key Strategies for Building Relationships

-Increase “termination” costs
-Make deposits into your “value” bank account
-Discover and develop shared values
-Improve the quantity and quality of communications
-Eliminate any perceptions you’re “just in the relationship for yourself”.

These strategies will work with prospects, customers and channel partners alike.  This week, think about how you’ll take a step to improve a key relationship–and stay tuned as we dig into these steps for better selling relationships.

All the best,

Lorin

Lorin Bristow and Rick Wimberly help companies increase sales from government and other complex markets through their firm, Galain Solutions, Inc. 

For a FREE report entitled “Five Sales Rules to Break when Selling to the Government” email info@galainsolutions.com or visit http://www.galainsolutions.com.