I’ve been observing and reading other sales experts rail on about how the sales cycles are increasing in length, how hard it is to get an appointment with a real decision makers, and how no one is returning a sales person’s phone call these days. Is this true for you too?
Personally, I had seen these things impacting our sales results over the past four years – the Great Recession seemed to accelerate the trend.
Yet, I have noticed one factor that seems to be gaining strength in our world of impersonal attitudes being displaced by the corporate wizards of purchasing.
Relationships still rule the day.
Let me explain my reasoning about relationships – as it is not about the “good old days or the good old boy” networks of the past. It is about relationships – actually connections between others based on content and expertise – that are paying off today.
First, I have reviewed all the sales we have made over the past six months. In looking at the source of the connections between us and the decision makers only one thing was common. Someone either knew us and our past performance or someone recommended us due to knowing others who “knew us” – the transfer of trust and credibility.
Okay, the meaning of all this discussion is simple. You must make contact with everyone you know to manage your reputation and connections. That is correct – manage your connection with others.
You can use several methods to interact and build meaningful connections (sorry about the social media sound to this using connections as a key word – yet, until you try it, you will never understand the value or power of connections.)
Here is a list of different ways to engage others…
- Phone Calls
This is the old fashioned method and it still works today – if you already know the person you are connecting. The key is to only touch base not to sell them something. Share a story or a topic of interest you know the person enjoys.
- Send an Article
Here you can use either the mail or email or even a tweet. Share an important message using an article, blog post or website page regarding a topic of interest – or – a game changer in your industry which you feel will be helpful to person you are contacting.
- Use Your Trade Association(s)
The key point here is everyone at a trade association meeting or trade show have similar interest with you. Make contact and get to “know” as many key players as possible while attending. Again, the point is to make a connection rather than a sales presentation – that is if you ever want to speak to this person again. It is your choice.
Non selling emails containing excellent content or messages for the receiver are valued by the other person. Increase their interest in you by paying attention and showing interest in them. Let your expertise show without the old traditional or pushy sales efforts.
- Success Stories
A good to excellent success story is one of the strongest points you can make with a potential buyer or decision maker. The key here is to show how success can be achieved concerning an issue they can or could have in their operation. Success stories provide the “proof” necessary for the person to get interested in you. This is based upon both experience and the new brain research in why and how people make decisions.
Okay, time to make the linkage to the title of this article. LinkedIn is a professional b2b social site rather than the b2c favored by the Facebook crowd. If you do not have a LinkedIn account – then you are missing an major opportunity to connect with hundreds of people. Personally, I have moved past the “free” version (which I recommend for you newbies) and pay a premium for additional flexibility in research and finding people I need to connect with. Here the key is to build a network of professionals in your industries and geographical territories. Follow the companies you sell to and your targeted companies – which give you access to more contacts.
The most important thing with LinkedIn is to use to get introductions to your decision makers through others who are currently connected to the buyer or decision maker. I have both used this technique and have had others use me as a connection to their targets.
The cool thing is it works. You can get an introduction to a key person and even build a relationship online. You can open the door and get an appointment with these people (as long as you are not “selling” them using LinkedIn.) and then with the appointment you have an opportunity to have an objective dialogue about their organization and concerns they have – which hopefully, you can help them solve.
There you have my ideas about the value of making connections with the right people.
One more nugget of Gold today. In my opinion, the issue of “timing” is the most important issue for b2b sales people today. If you are not top of mind with your potential customers – and existing customers – they will not contact you to engage in your solutions.
Timing is all about making “touches” with real people over time and elevating your status as both an expert and resource for the person who needs what you offer. The old school – traditional commodity selling – has b2b sales people only contacting their buyers to ask for a purchase! This activity has little favorable impact upon the buyer or decision maker since it does not involve caring or expertise.
Your action plans for today include…
- Create a LinkedIn Account
- Begin making Connections with Your Customers and Business Contacts
- Follow Your Major Accounts
- Follow Your Target Accounts
- Create a Plan for Contacting Key People with Good Content
After a few months of doing the above activities – within your everyday b2b sales activities – then begin to expand your usage by getting introductions to key decision makers within targeted accounts.
Have fun and enjoy your new found success.