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,