More than traditional sales: a guide to building profitable relationships

When I bagged my first sales role, I told my boss a bit of a fib (sorry!). It was a white lie, in fairness, but centred around the fact I’d had previous sales experience.

I hadn’t. Although, I had sold some stuff on eBay, which I guess is why I can claim the ‘white lie’. But maybe not.

Regardless, I knew exactly what I was doing because I had a feeling I wouldn’t need too much sales experience in order to get the product in question sold. In my mind, it was more about building relationships by talking to people, being nice and – most importantly – remaining honest at all times.

My hunch turned out to be correct, and I enjoyed a long, successful career as a salesperson. Now, I’m running my own business, and I’ve adopted the exact same sales tactic.

Here’s how to build profitable relationships without reaching for the sales manual.

Be yourself

One of the first sales missions I embarked on started with me putting on my best salesman impression before being told by the customer to “stop selling”. I’ll never forget it.

People buy from people. It’s a cliched term, but absolutely true. If you’re not yourself during a sales pitch, how are you going to keep that persona up for the duration of the relationship?

A great way to practice this is at in-person networking events. Traditional networking is effective when you don’t put on an act, and by remaining yourself in those situations, you’ll find it far easier to do so during sales pitches.

Recognise when you’re unwelcome

One of the most annoying things about being sold to is when the salesperson drones on and on despite your best efforts to make them stop and go away.

Some just don’t take “no” for an answer, and will call on every old fashioned trick in the book to turn you around.

This just doesn’t work any more. So, please, as you would at a party – make your excuses and leave when it becomes clear you’re boring the pants off someone. They won’t buy from you and there are plenty more fish in the sea. Don’t make a fool of yourself.

Keep in touch

If you promise to get back to a prospective customer, make sure you do. There’s nothing that will guarantee a missed opportunity more than a broken promise.

Keeping in touch has always been a vital part of sales, but it’s important not to flick the salesperson switch whenever you do.

When contacting a lead you’ve met or to whom you’ve sent a quote, do so on the pretence of wanting to know how business is for them and what they’ve been up to since you last spoke.

A natural catch-up conversation like that can literally lead anywhere; let it flow.

Don’t go above and beyond when asked

But you’re taught to go above and beyond to be successful, right? You are indeed, but people so often get this wrong.

If you’re asked by a prospective client to go above and beyond and “sharpen the pencil”, or include a service which the company has never provided before – don’t. You’ll only end up in hot water.

Instead, be proactive and go above and beyond yourself, when you spot the opportunity to do so. If the price can be shaved a little but the profit margin retained – do it. If you realise there’s a much better way to do something for which you’ve already quoted but at a higher cost to the company – do it.

Surprise your customers with random acts of kindness. Remember – when people ask you to go above and beyond and you gladly oblige, they’ll almost certainly make a habit of asking in future. Adopt the method above, and their loyalty will grow out of respect for your business.

Wrap up

Traditional sales tactics still have their place, but in the majority of industries, the above tips will set you in very good stead indeed.