by Jacques Werth and Nicolas Ruben
For most salespeople, establishing a relationship with someone is the most difficult and confronting aspect of High Probability Selling. It requires the salesperson to forget about selling and just be a person. It’s also the single most important step in High Probability Selling.
It’s a time when you don’t talk about your product at all. Your only purpose is to get to know the prospect and determine whether he or she is someone you can trust and respect. That decision is key because it determines whether you’re willing to do business with that person. You learn that through conversation and by asking questions.
When you don’t trust and respect someone, it’s very tough to hide it. If you don’t, they’ll know it almost as soon as you do, and they won’t want to do business with you. But more importantly, you’ll know it and you won’t want to do business with them. If you try to do business with someone you don’t trust and respect, you’ll never have a workable relationship. And if the relationship isn’t workable, it’ll be difficult and unrewarding at best, forever.
Put yourself in the prospect’s place. If you were the prospect and you felt that someone was trying to get you to do something, you would naturally try to protect yourself. That’s where resistance, suspicion and hostility come from. Whatever the salesperson does or says in that kind of environment will be construed as manipulative, insincere and inevitably creates resistance.
In High Probability Selling we only do business with people we trust and respect. When you’re establishing a relationship with a prospect, your purpose is to discover who the person inside the prospect is and how he or she got to be there, both personally and professionally. How you do that varies. Everyone’s style is different.
In order to determine whether you trust and respect someone, you have to really get to know them – find out what makes them tick. What motivates them and why? What incidents or feelings shaped who they are? How they wound up in their current job? The search goes way beyond surface amenities.
It’s not a matter of prying or trying to manipulate. You only have a limited period of time to spend on a call and you sincerely want to develop a relationship that means something. All meaningful relationships, professional or personal, are based on mutual trust and respect. If you can develop that kind of relationship with a customer you have such a competitive edge that is very difficult for anyone else to overcome. Everyone prefers to do business with someone they trust and respect. If you don’t develop that kind of relationship with a customer and get to know who they are at a personal level, you’re just another salesperson to them.
In order to do what I’m suggesting, you have to be sincerely interested in the prospect. That kind of sincerity can’t be faked. People know when you’re asking questions and only pretending to be interested in the answers. When that happens the prospect will abruptly cut you short.
Remember, your purpose in discovering what makes a prospect tick isn’t to uncover any “hot buttons” or what it will take to convince, persuade or manipulate someone to buy. It’s to see whether they are the kind of person you’re willing to do business with – to see whether you trust and respect them.
To do that you probably have to operate in a way that’s goes against everything you’ve been taught or conditioned to do in sales. You have to let go of “trying to please,” “dancing to the prospect’s tune,” “getting them to like you,” “being interested in what they’re interested in” and “flattering them.” You’re not there to impress, entice, or “build rapport.” You’re not there to “get them to buy.” You’re there to discover whether there’s a mutually acceptable basis for doing business, or not.
Editor’s Note: This blog post is excerpted from the book, “High Probability Selling” by Jacques Werth and Nicholas Ruben.