Dating Your Customers

By Lain Ehmann

When it comes to relationships with customers, salespeople are too quick to head to the altar, says Todd Duncan, author of High Trust Selling (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003). Instead, recommends Duncan, salespeople should enter into a courtship phase, taking the time to learn more about their prospective customers and making sure they’re compatible before registering for china and flatware.

A selling relationship is a long-term connection, much like marriage, explains Duncan. “Too many salespeople are far too interested in the pursuit of the transaction rather than the pursuit of the relationship,” he says. Salespeople need to ask the right questions – before they realize they’re involved in a relationship they wish they’d never started.

The first step is to interview your prospect to determine if your essences click. “You have to have shared values,” says Duncan. “You both have to believe and stand for the same thing.” If values don’t match, “the salesperson and the client are going to have problems working together,” he warns.

Interviewing means asking what Duncan calls Value Discovery Questions and Highest Value Needs Questions, such as:

  • What’s important to you about being successful?
  • What’s important to you about productivity?
  • What’s important to you about profitability?
  • What’s important to you about saving money/time?
  • How do you define…?
  • How would you change…?
  • What are your standards for…?
  • How do you select…?

    These questions help determine if your values and way of doing business are in line with your customer’s. If they are, he says, “You can customize a highly attractive buying strategy.” If they’re not, you can pass the prospect along to someone else on your team if it’s a matter of personality, or simply bow out if it appears the customer isn’t suited for your business at all. “One of the most powerful things salespeople can do is stop the process immediately when they know there’s not a match,” Duncan says. Not only does it cut down on wasted time, but it also empowers salespeople to feel good about what they are selling, knowing they’re working only with people who can truly gain value from their product or service.

    The synergy created by two people with shared values in a relationship makes for an easier and more productive union. “If two people love doing business together, the details won’t get in the way,” explains Duncan. “If two people don’t love doing business together, they’ll deal with nothing but details.”

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