Since building and maintaining personal, professional relationships is so critical to your selling success in wholesale distribution, here are 10 tips for doing just that. The tips emphasize the activities and practices that can help you build the right kind of relationships with your customers.
Though specific practices such as these can be helpful and effective tools, the basic principle here is to focus on the customer, instead of the stuff (or yourself or your company). These 10 tips offer ways to help you practice this focus. It’s all about the customer, not about you!
Be Aware, Establish Rapport and Keep Commitments
Tip #1: Be aware of your customers’ three personal needs/objective areas.
Tip #2: Remember the basic rules for establishing good rapport with customers.
- Give a strong handshake and use eye contact when meeting the customer in person
- Use good phone etiquette
- Dress appropriately–as perceived by the customer
- Recognize important celebrations of your customer contact and his company (birthdays, awards, kids’ achievements, anniversaries, positive publicity, and so forth)
- Share newspaper articles about them, their company, and their special interests
- Explore and discuss common points of interest
- Don’t substitute electronic communication for appropriate personal communication
- Send personal thank-you/congratulatory notes.
Tip #3: Keep commitments.
- Make small commitments initially and follow through
- Be aware of customer time frames and meet them
- Keep customers informed of your progress with appropriate interim communication
- Don’t use the phrase “as soon as possible;” instead, use “no later than.”
Match Their Style, Ask Open-Ended Questions and Keep Pace
Tip #4: Read and match their style: Personal first, then professional or professional first, then personal.
Tip #5: Ask open-ended questions … about them.
- “What is your area of responsibility?”
- “What do you like about working here?”
- “What do you do for fun?”
- “What do you do when you’re not working?”
- “How long have you been with this company?” “In this area of responsibility?”
- “What did you do before you had this job? Position? Worked here?
“Tell me about yourself …”
Tip #6: Match the customer’s pace and intensity.
- Speech patterns
- Communication responsiveness
- Body language
- Business versus personal communication.
Communicate, Observe, Find Opportunities and Use Humor
Tip #7: Find out how they like to communicate and communicate that way.
Tip #8: Be observant and be honestly inquisitive about the customer:
- “Tell me about that award you received …”
- “You dress with a Western flair… what’s your Western connection?”
- “Where was that picture taken?”
- “What professional achievements are you most proud of?”
- “What professional goals do you have?”
- “What interests do you have outside work?”
- “I see you have a degree from the University of Michigan — how did you enjoy your time there?”
Tip #9: Look for — and create — opportunities for off-line time together. Coffee, breakfast, or lunch are good starts; sporting events or other activities are good opportunities as relationships progress.
Tip #10: Use humor — carefully.
Learn more from Objective-Based Selling in Wholesale Distribution by Gary Moore.