One of the questions I always ask when interviewing someone for a staffing sales position is: “tell me about the client relationship you are most proud of and why”. About half of the candidates I ask are completely stumped – I don’t hire any of them. Why? Because in our industry, building strong relationships is critical to our long-term success. And overcoming adverse situations (which we have plenty of in our profession) in many cases results in a stronger relationship. When someone that has been in sales for more than a couple of years can’t think of a client relationship they are proud of, it tells me that they are a transactional sales person. That mentality works great in some other industries, but not in staffing.
Building relationships is all about establishing trust. Here are 5 steps to building trust during the sales process.
1. Prove your credibility – Prospects are immediately skeptical of sales people, particularly if that relationship starts with a cold call. Overcome that skepticism as quickly as possible by giving them your background, listing high-profile clients you work with, providing testimonials, etc. It’s also important that your LinkedIn and other web profiles are updated and professional, as many prospects use those to determine credibility.
2. Stop being so salesy – If you ask prospects what they hate most about sales people calling them, it’s the relentless request for a meeting before they’ve even established a potential need. Try this: for one week, don’t go into any call or conversation with a new prospect with the intent to get an appointment. Focus on building credibility and determining potential need, and I’ll bet you end up with more appointments.
3. Learn how you can help – Ever hear the phrase “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”? That’s how we tend to approach sales. Instead first seek to understand what their true needs are without using the narrow lens of your services. Then determine if what you offer can actually solve their problem.
4. Build rapport – This is going to vary widely based on the prospect’s personality. Some people will warm up to you on the first call, while others may never technically warm up at all. Even so, you can build a strong relationship on their terms by taking cues from them and adapting your style to what they respond best to (which is not the same as mirroring their personality – just because I’m a stick in the mud doesn’t mean I like other sticks in the mud). This is by far the trickiest of the five steps, and takes the most practice and skill.
5. Be patient – Prospects make decisions, and place trust, at different speeds. Pushing them to make a decision because you need to make quota is the quickest way to lose a sale. And frankly if you are pushing prospects to make decisions on your timeline, it’s a sure sign that you don’t have a full and healthy pipeline. Sure you want to guide the prospect along and help them make their decision, but know when its time to back off and let them go at a pace they are most comfortable with.
Following these steps won’t always lead to a new client, but it sure increases your chances exponentially, and ultimately results in more rewarding (personally and financially) relationships.