4 steps into a relationship

4 steps into a relationship

Follow four steps to obtain commitment. (photo courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net)

“I tried to sell myself to you, but I couldn’t close the deal.” -Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail (1988)

Articles in women’s magazines, conversations between best friends and discussions in internet forums are filled with questions about how to find an ideal companion. Dating services are flourishing over the internet. Tips&tricks are served in blogs, books and courses. Dating industry is flourishing to help people to find love and warmth next to them.

To understand better your way into a relationship we can simply have a look at the different stages of the sales process. Come again? Why would slimy sales have anything to do with romantic and exciting occasion as dating and meeting new people?

Acknowledging stages of sales process, derived from a nearly 30 years old book of Neil Rackham, is crucial. In business it’s easy to diminish trust and deteriorate the relationship by rushed actions. I have seen many unsuccessful sales calls where the pivotal mistake has been a rushed jump over a step or even two.It’s easy to fall into that same trap when pursuing to get a girl for a coffee.

The skills involved with sales are essential in every aspect of organizational and customer relationships. The skills are about persuasion, interaction and understanding the counter part through listening. The most important coming as last. Even if you weren’t working in sales you need sales skills to move others.

It does not matter whether you are selling internally or externally the key to success is effective questioning. Unfortunately theories and concepts behind these skills are rarely taught in business schools, where learning often revolves around fashionable buzzwords.

So how do you successfully establish a relationship? What are the steps into a date or an order?

1st step: Preliminary questions

To be able to understand the sales better we need to know how a traditional sales process is constructed and how does it advance. First, to bond with the customer typical sales call starts with preliminary questions. You can imagine those as classic “Do you come here often?” questions. The purpose of the preliminary questions is to bond with the buyer, preferably touching some personal interest or topic.

Dealing with professionals does not require that much preliminaries. I mean professional buyers and purchase managers. They are often busy handling dozens of supplier accounts and aiming to hold stock levels low and its turnover high. With professional buyer business relationship is more often commercial than social.

2nd step: Investigating stage

After preliminaries sales call proceeds to investigating stage where the seller’s purpose is to drill into customer’s needs and expectations. By a correct order and pattern of questions – investigation – a subtle salesman develops needs of the customer further. By questions sales person identifies customer’s pain points, challenges and hindrances.

Today, it’s essential that sales person is capable of identifying the root causes of the customer problems. If the customer is very well aware of the problem and economical and practical solution to it, he would have already bought it from someone! By clever questions sales person lets the customer to express explicitly his or hers challenges. By doing this customer will be later more prone to accept the solutions provided.

3rd step: Demonstrating capability

Then the sales process can advance to demonstrating capability. It means showing how your product or service solves customer’s problems or meets his or hers needs. The greatest challenge is to convince customer to accept the solution and move forward by obtaining commitment.

In the best case scenario that means an order or either advance to a next step of the negotiations. In the worst case scenario you get rejected and that’s what the best salespeople are hardened to last.

4th step: Obtaining commitment

Typically sales call ends at obtaining commitment in a way or another. In simple and small sized sales situations purchase decision can be considered as a successful outcome for the seller. In complicated and large sized sales situations advancements are also a way towards a payoff.

Best performing sales people don’t visit a customer to gather background information or to make an introduction. They set goals and move the sales forward by committing the prospective buyer into action after covering the main concerns of the buyer.

What else is needed?

After goal-orientation second, perhaps even more important, attribute of best performing sales people is the amount and quality of questions they make. This is about being attuned and showing interest into customer’s business.

Based on one of the most extensive research on sales Neil Rackham (SPIN selling, 1988) states that especially in complicated and large sized sales it is crucial to equip the buyer with correct reasoning that will be communicated to the other influencers in the buyer’s organization. Questions will help the customer to express why the seller’s product or service is right for the customer’s organization.

This can be very well understood by looking at relationships and entering one. Often, you get introduced by a friend to a prospective spouse candidate. Would you think that he or she does not know anything about you? Chances are that the person has already heard about you and your background. You can only wish that your reputation has preceded you positively.