You’re not building your bankroll, you’re building a relationship

Sales is a process, not a result.

The mistake that many salesmen make is focusing too hard on raking in the dollars. Rather than being results-oriented, a successful salesperson looks to cultivate a relationship between himself and the customer. The job of a salesman or sales closer is to create relationships with clients and recognize when they are showing interest; in doing so, they put themselves in a position to close deals for the clients and companies for which they are hired. This is a process, but one that ultimately profits both parties. By approaching the sale the correct way, that is, by looking first to build a relationship with the customer and understanding his or her needs, then the correct sale can be made.

How does one go about cultivating a relationship? It’s a process that entails establishing rapport with the customer, connecting with him or her, and understanding what he or she wants and needs. It is during this process that the customer learns about the product or service being offered, and ultimately whether it is a good fit for the customer at all. The hardest part can be discouraging the customer from making a poor purchase, but that’s all part of building an honest relationship – the customer will remember the experience and either return to make another purchase, tell his or her friends about the positive experience, or both. In any case, the process of building the relationship is key.

One could say that the relationship between Apple and its users is among the most publicly lauded between a company and its customers. Apple has its many “fan boys” that will rush to defend its products, software, and even customer service. This is all a result of the relationship-building process mandated by Steve Jobs; by the Apple business philosophy, this begins in the store.

The “Genius Bar” and the ubiquitous blue-uniformed “Geniuses” that now service Apple stores are screened and trained in specific ways to maximize the relationships that they build with people. First of all, the “Geniuses” themselves must be loyal Mac users and undergo a 14 day program that teaches lessons like “The Power of Empathy”. Employees are trained to follow the “APPLE” method of selling – Approach, Probe, Present, Listen, End. The key stage here that is lacking from many competitors is the “Listen” stage. Don’t talk at the consumer. Converse. It’s a relationship, not a lecture.

Companies and sales people that understand that the process is fundamentally about building relationships. As Dan Wieden of Portland-based ad agency, and Nike’s agency of record says, “this business is about creating strong, provocative relationship between good companies and their customers. These relationships will feed the business… but you have to feed the relationship first.”