Co-Author: Mike Fiorito, Vice President, KYB America
When we think about, hear or read the word sales, how often does the word partnership come to mind?
We tend to view sales as a transaction between a buyer and a seller – which, of course, is in fact true. But it is more, much more.
Often people try to use the word “partnership” as the solution. Almost as if by adding the word into a proposal or negotiation the word will magically fix all problems. A real partnership is an evolution. It is a process that changes as needed and requires balance to work.
The objective of the sales partnership is to develop a win-win relationship in the spirit of collaboration. To lay the groundwork and foundation for a long-term business relationship (partnership), it is important to remember that it is both professional and personal.
Like a good marriage, partnerships can have challenges. In some cases, the true answer is not easily acceptable to one party. Using facts to separate reality from emotion helps. However, in many corporate structures there may be unseen or unknown influences added into the equation. Getting to the bottom of what is really motivating a “partner” can be a difficult task, but complete understanding is a must to succeed.
The exchange of goods and services takes on a life of its own. A good start is to think like a customer when you are selling and to think like a sales professional when you are buying. Keen awareness fosters open communication:
• Everyone in your organization is in the customer relationship business. Is that in their DNA?
• Is your company customer-centric?
• Is there an understanding of the sales process?
• Sales success is a team sport
As in life and in business our actions define us. To become a positive active partner with your customers, start being proactive, go the extra mile and be empathetic. Demonstrate in your dealings that you have “both” your best interests in mind. You need to understand their needs. Thus, you will have to communicate your requirements and pain points too. Some think this makes you vulnerable, instead it shows that your willing and open to work things out.
Earn the reputation as a pro customer company:
• Be a problem-solver
• Be transparent
• Communicate often
• Provide added value
• Say no with facts
• Seek product feedback
• Show appreciation
• Build loyalty
• Practice active listening
Do not try to rush the process. Some negotiations, despite the challenges, go quickly. Others may take more time and could drag out longer than hoped. Be patient. Continue the dialogue and keep detailed notes along the way. In some cases, the situation may comeback around to an item that you thought had already been covered yet there it is. Using your notes to remind everyone of what was previously discussed can help you clear those hurdles.
Establishing a solid partnership is like mountain climbing. You need to be sure that you have a good grasp on the subject and take one step at a time. Even if the pace is frustratingly slow, keep your eye on the prize and keep working toward the goal. Just remember, good things come to those that can wait.
According to the American Society of Training and Development, professional selling is “the holistic business system required to effectively develop, manage, enable and execute a mutually beneficial interpersonal exchange of goods and/or services for equitable value.” This is the standard for a customer partnership.
Learn your customer’s business and their challenges. Eliminate their pain points and problems. Be agile and quick to respond. Build trust! Share your brand story! Create a scalable customer support system. Never take a customer for granted. Keep customers informed when you make major changes. When possible seek input from customers when considering or investigating major changes.
A true professional sales-customer partnership involves shared business objectives that are mutually beneficial. Both parties are equally responsible to support each other (in good times and bad times) and agree to disagree with facts and respect and learn together.
The pillars of a sale partnership are:
Businesses are built on relationships and are living proof of the saying, “no man is an island.” Strategic business relationships are not one-sided. It involves a sharing of accomplishments.
Collaboration breeds success.