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The Business of Relationships

When I was growing up we had a gigantic garden in back of the house.  Actually maybe it wasn’t gigantic; maybe I was just small?  Anyone who knew my grandmother said that she had a “green thumb.”  No matter what she grew it had more flavor than the same thing grown next door. She grew the biggest, sweetest strawberries, tomatoes flavored by the vine and watermelon so perfect that you didn’t need salt.  There were cucumbers, long white icicle radishes and sweet onions…  Out in front of the house there was a roadside produce stand that she kept stocked with whatever was in season.  On the counter there was a small wooden box with a slot in the top and a sign that said, “Pay What You Can,” and people did.

Whenever someone new moved into the neighborhood, or someone was sick, or maybe they brought home a new baby, my grandmother would fill a basket – not with strawberries, but with strawberry jam; not with cucumbers but with bread and butter pickles.  When I asked her why she didn’t just give the fruits and vegetables, she said, “The fruits and vegetables are the things I sell, but the jam and pickles are what I give to make and keep friends.

When you think about your sales technique do your efforts lean toward selling a product or building a relationship?  What’s the difference?

Just the Product

  • Products are sold on retail shelves.
  • A sale may be lost because the competitor’s product that is right next to yours, costs less, or has a more attractive package.
  • A sale often depends on the store display.
  • You never get to know the buyer, so your only feedback is quantity sold.
  • You don’t get any recommendations or insight about how you could improve your product and encourage higher sales.
  • Brand loyalty is hard to earn
  • Quick sale and now it’s a wait and see.

The Relationship

  • People buy more from people they come to know and trust.
  • Your analytics are more predictable.
  • Future upgrades of your product are watched for.
  • You get testimonials when you do a good job.
  • Your customers will help you sell your product.
  • You get feedback from those who actually use your product.

When you make that sales call, remember the idea is to forge a long-term relationship, not one quick sale.

Build the Relationship

  • Be trustworthy, reliable, objective, and available.
  • Exhibit a care for the prospect’s needs and limitations.
  • Listen to the prospect and respond in a way that shows you hear and understand.
  • Don’t be all talk and no action.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise at appropriate times.
  • Keep everything confidential.

You can’t put a price on trust, but you can take the profits to the bank when you build it.  My grandmother’s sales at that produce stand kept all of us kids in shoes and coats all the way through high school because the relationships she built, kept buying from her.

 

Deborah Elliott, a transplant from Northern California now calls Texas home. While she is currently part of the team at ShadeTree Technology, she holds a Masters in Special Education, and has to her credit a stint as editor of her city paper in the mid-1980’s. She built her writing career writing feature stories and a newspaper column entitled, “Matter of Opinion” that ran in both California and Mississippi. In 1987 she was recognized by the California Teachers Association for her contribution to education through journalism. Authoring the company newsletter for Raymus Land Development, a prestigious home builder in California’s Central Valley allowed her to take her writing endeavors down a new path. Elliott is also the author of multiple works of fiction that are currently available as electronic downloads on Amazon.
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