The world is full of salespeople who claim, quite proudly, to have great relationships with their customers. Unfortunately, the phrase “great relationships” is often a veil salespeople use to hide weaknesses in their selling skills.
For example, if experienced salespeople believe they have developed great relationships with customers, they spend their time visiting these customers, and focusing on maintaining friendships. In turn, these salespeople might fail to present new products or services aggressively because it might jeopardize interaction with a client. In addition, they never close a sale because they might not be able to handle rejection from a client with whom they have established a rapport. It’s too risky. The connection becomes the end, instead of a means to an end.
The cold, hard truth in sales is this: if the relationship doesn’t result in revenue coming into the business, then it isn’t valuable. The measurement of the depth and power of a business relationship is not how much you know about the customer, or how well you get along. If a rapport is truly solid, then the account is highly lucrative.
What should sales managers do? First, assume that “great relationships” for all but your top-performing salespeople are probably smoke screens, directing your attention away from the real issue—lack of competent sales skills. If your salespeople are consistently good performers, leave them alone. Their relationships are probably working for them. Focus instead on the marginal performers. When they claim to have friendly prospects, ask this question: “If your relationships are so great, why aren’t they buying everything from you?” Begin to measure the quality of relationships by the harsh reality of account penetration.
If the account is not growing dramatically, then the relationship isn’t really an asset. Consider the following actions:
• Train salespeople in the practices of consultative selling. Sadly, most distributor salespeople have never been educated in the paradigms, principles and practices of consultative selling. Before you can expect greatness, you must educate your staff.