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Relationships, Revenue, and Retention During a Crisis

Sales Leadership

I recently presented to the Women Business Owners (WBO) association on this topic. It was interesting to share thoughts and hear business owners' perspectives on how we can best engage with customers during this crisis.

As a starting point, it begins with the very real recognition that the challenges we are facing are unprecedented in our lifetimes with millions of people infected globally, staggering death rates, social isolation, and uncertainty on if and when we will go back to "normal."

What I've learned over the years is that people and businesses are incredibly resilient and must adapt to whatever the "new normal" looks like.  As such, most of us are now working from home and need to figure out how we can best engage with our customers virtually. From a practical standpoint, that means having a high-speed internet connection, a good web camera (not so easy to get these days), and a reliable live online meeting platform (Zoom, WebEx, etc.).

From a sales perspective, we should realize that, like us, our customers are facing personal challenges (e.g., working from home, daycare, cooking, cleaning, etc.) and that we need to be aware of this in our conversations.

Relationships are foundational to sales, and we should take this opportunity to focus on steps we can take to develop and enhance relationships. By focusing on relationships first, we will increase customer retention and revenue as we emerge from this crisis.

Here are three key elements you can use to further develop relationships with your customers.

1 | Develop Rapport

While there are many techniques you can use to develop rapport, the most important one right now is empathy. As we check in with customers, we need to create an opportunity for them to talk about themselves and the issues they are facing. This can best be accomplished by asking thoughtful questions, taking the time to listen, and showing a genuine concern for their situation.

2 | Build Trust

Trust is foundational to great relationships and typically is built over a long period of time. Unfortunately, trust can erode very quickly if a customer senses motives that are self-serving or manipulative. To build trust, always focus on the following:

  • Reliability: Customers appreciate sales professionals who are reliable, so make sure you fulfill your commitments. If, for any reason (including reasons related to the COVID- 19 crisis), you cannot make good on a commitment, be sure you are proactive in communicating with your customers.
  • Honesty: This is simply good business. Always be honest in your actions and communications. This may even involve turning down business if you are uncertain about your ability to deliver or fulfill a commitment.
  • Responsiveness: Act with urgency. If you can get back to a customer on the same day, do it. If you don't have an answer, let them know when they can expect to hear back from you.
  • Objectivity: Make sure you take the time to understand your customer's perspective. This isn't easy when they are sharing something you don't want to hear (e.g., budgets are frozen), but if you stay objective, you can do a better, more professional job of responding.

3 | Demonstrate Expertise

Sales professionals' primary goal is to guide customers to the best decisions possible. As such, your role is to demonstrate expertise by aligning your solutions to their needs and adding value throughout the sales process. Keep in mind that much of the value you add may not result in immediate business. Instead, think about the value you create as an investment you are making in the relationship. This is especially true now since customers are looking for you to provide them with the resources they need to make informed decisions.

In these very challenging times, it is no longer only about how the customer feels about your products or solutions. Instead, it is how they think about "YOU."

Ultimately, customers buy from people they like, trust, and who can add value. As a sales professional, you have the power to do all three by developing deeper, stronger relationships with your customers.

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.