The # 1 thing I like to tell most technical founders and entrepreneurs who want to learn how to sell is to “build strong relationships“. This usually leads to the question – “How do we do that?”.
Rather than focus on the strategy and the benefits of building relationships alone, I’ll outline the top 3 tactics I use to build relationships with potential clients.
1. Sell yourself as an individual first. A novice sells the product or service they are building and focus purely on the benefits and features of the offering. A smart relationship sales person realizes that the old pithy “People buy from people they like and trust” is true. They sell their background, experience, vision, knowledge and track record first. When you are with a prospective customer, talk about the context of how your product helps them. Give them your personal background of how you have seen the solution help others.
The best sales people sell themselves first and get the customer to buy into them instead of what they are selling.
2. Tell customer stories and provide examples. I believe every statement or question a client has should begin with a short answer to the specific question, but immediately by the phrase “Let me give you an example. One of our customers…” If you do not have existing customers to provide examples, provide examples of how customers might use the offering to their benefit.
3. Adding value beyond the transaction. Every person buying understands that the sales person needs to sell their offering. Every buyer, though has a lot more “problems”, “issues” and “opportunities” besides the solution the sales person provides. The best way to build lasting relationships is to help others on things that are outside of your scope of the transaction. Here are some examples:
a) If you learn of new opportunities (employment or contract) that are available to your prospect, from talking to other clients, let them know about those.
b) If you attended a new conference or seminar and have written down the top takeaways from that conference which you believe might be useful to that client, share it with them.
c) If you hear about new tools, web services or blogs and books that helps your client, even though its not what your company does, let your prospect know about them.
d) If your prospect can benefit from introductions to other people in your network, make those connections. Even if you get no immediate benefit from those introductions, the trust it creates is enormous.
e) If you attend a seminar and get some great giveaways (such as logo t-shirts, bags, schwag etc), offer them to your prospect.
The benefit of selling yourself first is that even if what you are selling is deficient (product has missing features, pricing is higher than competition, etc), the customer will work with you to fix those “issues”.