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Let’s Talk About Relationships

APR 30, 2014 12:43pm ET
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Sorry to excite some of you, but I’m referring to customer, prospect and selling relationships. In the past several days I’ve have come across people whose titles are relationship manager and relationship sales manager.

In discussing my sales training and consulting with the manager of a financial services firm, it was conveyed to me that he did not need my sales training and sales coaching services. His reasoning was two-fold. First, his licensed representatives don’t really sell; they establish and maintain relationships. Secondly, all the representatives with his office are seasoned professionals and have been successfully selling for years (yes, I said “selling”).

I’ll address the latter reasoning first, that all the sales staff were successful and had years of selling experience. To paraphrase the legendary sales trainer the late Zig Ziglar, every outdoorsman needs to go back into the shed, from time-to-time, to sharpen his ax!

I have been successfully training and coaching sales managers and sales staffs for over three decades¸ yet I still attend sales training seminars, read books on selling, listen to tapes and speak with my counterparts to improve my skills and “sharpen my ax!”

When you begin to believe there’s no benefit derived from sales training, then it’s probably a good time to consider retirement plans, or at the very least, a change of vocation.  To state the obvious (or so I would like to believe for my readers that this is obvious), on-going training and professional improvement can further one’s goals and continued success. More importantly, if the seminar presenter is effective and can get the sales person to think more professionally (guilty as charged), there’s no downside as a result of engaging in any learning opportunity.

This brings me to the infamous discussion about the concept of relationships. Stated briefly, I do acknowledge that relationships in selling are of paramount importance and benefit. You’ll get no argument from me on this premise.

That being said, I would further stipulate (another one of my 1,612 philosophical statements): “nothing happens until something gets sold.” Other than personal relationships, professional relationships will always contain an element and degree of selling.

Granted, if you have nothing to do with the formal selling function, your relationship, at the very least, required you to successfully communicate to someone why a relationship would be mutually beneficial. I would have referred to “selling” one self but too many naïve soles are offended with any reference to sales and/or selling (trust me, it’s not a terrible concept nor thought). 

For someone who is rewarded and/or compensated for selling a product, service or idea–you are building relationships with the latter goals in mind. For a financial planner and or financial services representative (like a mortgage loan officer), where trust is a consideration for people to engage their services, relationships are indeed of great significance. But again, “nothing happens until something gets sold!” Call it like it is; they are sales people. They are selling themselves, their knowledge and successful results as well as a relationship.

Lastly, an effective sales coach and sales trainer can be instrumental in guiding people on how to build successful relationships. To use a personal example, I sent a couple to my financial planner/representative to help them organizing their assets and plan for retirement.

In his zeal to build a relationship (I just got chills in using the “R” word) he neglected to offer them specific advice on any specific products. Rather, he dwelled on building a relationship.

They left the meeting and called me from their car on the way home to voice their displeasure with my recommendation. They wanted him to be more definitive and discuss available products that might achieve their goals– instead, he asked them to review several different financial products and set an appointment for another meeting.

If you’re a financial planner/representative reading this you’re probably thinking what you do requires a more subtle approach–and it might–but you still need to expedite the process where possible. Once someone is willing to allow the opportunity for a presentation, you need to take it. 

Take charge and tell the prospect what you plan on doing and then proceed to do something positive. People rely on sales people to disseminate information and analysis and then recommend a course of action. The prospect won’t ask to be sold; that task is left to the presenter (I did not use the term “sales person” so as not to offend anyone).

Sales coaching and sales training, if presented in an effective and organized manner (again, guilty as charged), will benefit all who attend. If you’re seasoned in your field, a refresher course in sales can be invigorating. If you’re a successful sales person, you always have an opportunity to improve on your success.

And, if you’re new to sales or have not achieved your desired selling goals, then training and coaching will be of immense benefit. For sales directors/managers, you need to avoid having the “inmates run the asylum.”

You professionals, above everyone else, know that effective sales coaching and sales training will improve every sales person’s performance. I guarantee it! Bring in a sales trainer and tell your associates when to attend the training.

Stephen Greenberg is the founder and CEO of Synergistic Associates, Inc., a national sales training and coaching organization. For a free consultation, or any questions, Steve can be contacted at steveg@synergisticassoc.com or (954) 757-6585.

Comments (3)
You hit that one out of the park. Very well said & appreciate your work.
Posted by Anthony C | Wednesday, April 30 2014 at 1:17PM ET
Great article and a strategic method of reminding us that times are changing and a lot of the traditional sales methods are no longer generating the results they did years gone by. So keeping up to date on the newest trends is the real need for continuous training and coaching.

Your financial planning story is a great example of changing customer needs. With access to information available on the Internet, the need to speak with a salesperson is no longer the entry point in the buying process. Most customers today have recognized their need for the product, the available solutions, prices, color etc. before they talk with a salesperson. Fewer sales will be made if accessing where the customers are in their buying process is not the first step of the salesperson.
Posted by STEPHEN G | Saturday, May 03 2014 at 1:59PM ET
Thanks for all the positive feedback I've received as a result of writing this article. Keep those cards and letters coming.
Posted by Stephen G | Monday, May 05 2014 at 11:58AM ET
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