How often to you plan social sales calls? Do buyers see you as Mr. or Ms. Hard Sell? Are you always pushing for orders? Ever just relax with a customer or prospect?
It’s All About Relationship
People buy from people who they like and trust. Let’s unpack that statement. First of all people really buy from people. Whoa, you think: “What about the book I ordered from Amazon?” Well, OK, some smaller personal purchases we just buy. But what about a car or house? Would you buy one without human interaction? Even when you “buy” a car on line, there is a dealership involved. In the B2B world where I spent my career there was always a buyer involved.
People buy from salespeople they like. Maybe not always but when the buyer likes you it is much easier to get the information you need to close the sale. Plus if you find the buyer unpleasant you may just pass on selling to that company. Trust is everything. When there is not mutual trust closing the sale is impossible. Social sales calls allow the buyer and seller to build and strengthen relationship. They develop a “business friendship”. And we trust our friends.
Social Sales Calls?
What are social sales calls? Sharing a meal together. A golf outing. Attending a baseball game. Perhaps an evening cruise on your sailboat. These are meetings with your customer which are outside the office and build the strong personal relationship. True, some companies forbid this kind of activity between salesperson and buyer. I think that is short sighted. Good relationships benefit both parties. And I’ve never gotten an order from a customer because I bought them lunch or took them fishing. Good buyers place orders when it is in the best interest of their company.
Don’t Always Be Pitching!
When I was a young application engineer, Ralph was a sales territory manager. His territory included the 3M Company. Chet was the buyer for our products at 3M. Now Ralph was the perfect example of an expressive personality. He was outgoing and social.
Ralph needed me to accompany him on a sales call to gather the technical information for the project he was pursuing. We were to meet with the plant people who would use the equipment. The evening before happened to be Chet’s wife’s birthday. Ralph invited Chet and his wife to supper at their favorite restaurant. A social sales call. The table conversation was about family, hobbies, favorite sports teams and of course the birthday gift Chet had for his wife. Nothing about business, our two companies or the project for 3M. It was purely a social evening among friends.
We did win the project on its merits. Ralph continued to get orders from Chet and we lost a few over the years, too. The strong mutually beneficial relationship between Ralph and Chet allowed for open conversation about the work we lost so we could improve our performance.
What If Social Sales Call Turns To Business?
Occasionally a social outing turns to discussion about business. Take a golf outing for example. A salesperson may be in a foursome with a buyer she doesn’t know. The buyer may ask about an aspect of business. The great salesperson recognizes a social sales call is not the appropriate time to discuss it in detail. She says: “That’s a great question. I’d like to discuss that with you. Now is not the time to do that. Would you mind if I phoned you tomorrow to set an appointment?” They both go on to complete the golf outing chatting about subjects other than business. The salesperson follows up the next day with a call to set the appointment. By keeping the social sales call social the great salesperson learns about the customer’s interests and can use that information to build the relationship.
What To Do Right Now
Think back over your recent sales activities. How many social sales calls did you have? How did they help build the relationship with your customer? Did you pitch business during those meetings? What will you do differently in future social sales calls to build trust with your customers?
Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford