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A Small Business Sales Story:

Relationship Marketing Strategies Can Help Your Sales Grow

Use relationship marketing strategies to build sales. This sales story is an example of how first impressions make a difference. Build relationships and use question based selling as one of your sales training activities.

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This sales story tells how I made one of my biggest sales. It happened on a day where I went into an office to find out who the Managing Partner was of a mid size design firm - I was qualifying my prospect.

It demonstrates the need to really put together a sales program that focuses on your unique value proposition and what differentiates your business, products and services from your competitors; your positioning statement; and your features, advantages and benefits (FAB). And it shows that you need to have that information in a focused message that is easily understood and remembered.

This example also shows the need to be responsive to changing and/or new situations and to have the interest and ability to build business relationships.

Sales Story - Relationship Marketing Strategies

Lessons learned:

  1. Always be helpful to others. Sometimes it pays back; sometimes it doesn't. But being helpful is the right thing to do. And you'll feel good about yourself.

  2. The reputation you build for yourself is as important as the reputation you build for your product. Think branding in terms of yourself, as well as your business.

  3. Never betray a trust. Always over-deliver.

  4. Everyone is important to you and your business.

  5. View selling as helping. You are there to solve someone's problems or issues - even if they don't recognize the problems or issues they have yet. (You can help them with that too.) And think about helping as being value based selling. And use question based selling strategies to build your sales approach.

Use this sales story example to mentor others in your organization to recognize the importance of relationship marketing strategies and selling.

From the shipper, to the customer service representative, to the receptionist, and others in your organization: everyone sells. Also encourage those with sales responsibilities, to put their lessons learned in writing.

Sales training activities need to include the importance of building relationships; and of using question based selling to find out more about the client and the client's problems.

Business plan outline and development can take those lessons learned and translate them into action items for reaching sales goals.

This Sales Story demonstrates why small business owners always need to do the right thing:

I got to my prospect's office during lunch time - there was no one up front.

I hung around, waiting. A few minutes later, a relatively short, well dressed woman hurried into the office lobby.

She was carrying an overflowing armful of papers and packages. As she turned around the front office counter to put her papers down on the desk behind the counter, a number of papers slid forward and out onto the floor. The rest of her arm-load was 'de-stabilized' by this and within seconds, the floor was covered.

I put down my briefcase and leapt to help her. We spent the next 10 minutes picking up papers and re-ordering them. As we finished, an older man came in to the lobby from a back hallway and walked around the counter and sat at the desk.

He was the receptionist and he asked me who I was there to see. I told him I actually wanted to know who the Managing Partner was because I wanted to book an appointment with the partner. The short, well dressed woman I'd helped, turned around from sorting out her papers and said, "that's me".

After we introduced ourselves and I told her why I wanted to meet with her, she took me into her office and spent the next hour with me. I was selling paper at the time for a paper mill and had samples with me of a new, high value paper product we were launching.

She was one of my prospects because of the work she did for high end clients who would likely be prolific users of this paper. I explained to her why I wanted to meet her, why I thought this product was a good fit for her work, and why I thought her clients (and I'd researched three good volume accounts) would benefit from using this particular paper product.

I also spent some time asking questions and finding out more about my prospect and about her business and her problems. With the results of the question based selling activities, I learned enough to specifically target my solution to her problem.

While I was in her office she contacted her printer and asked him about the paper I was selling.

He hadn't heard of it before (this was a new product). But he had heard my name before. She told him to get a proposal for this new product for the job that he was going to be printing for her the following week.

She specified our paper for a large high end print run based on our front office encounter, one and a half hours of discussion and a call to her printer. I made the sale based on the strength of my credibility (not my product).

She told me later that she made her decision based on the level of trust she had that I knew what I was talking about (I projected sincerity) and that I seemed to be a person (and name) that she could trust.

She became a good client of mine while I worked for that company and even though I am no longer in the paper business we still get together from time to time for a coffee.

My purpose in sharing this sales story is to show you that everything matters. And to demonstrate that you always need to be prepared.

Sales training activities need to include relationship marketing strategies; such as question based selling.

Whether you sell business-to-business or business-to-consumer, how you conduct yourself in your business dealings is important. Everyone you meet is important (whether or not they help your sales). This is a significant key account management relationship marketing strategy or tactic.

As a small business owner, build your business by always doing the right thing - even if the right thing seems to be a small thing.

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Selling Techniques

Successful selling experiences require using more than one technique.

Yes, face-to-face selling (particularly through relationship building) is often one of the more successful tactics.

But other techniques and strategies include building touch points and sharing information.

In other words, educating your customer or prospect on your products and services and also providing information that will help your customer in their business; making sure that your products or services are highly differentiated from competitors' offerings and communicating that differentiation effectively; and clearly understanding what your customers need in terms of value and delivering it.

Communicate with your customers and prospects in person; over the phone; through the mail (yes, letters, cards, coupons and order forms have high response rates if well designed and well executed); over the Internet through blogs, emails, social media, webinars, and your website; through print materials such as catalogues, coupon books, brochures, business cards, flyers and more.

Build your sales approach as a campaign:

Plan to make contact on a regular and frequent basis (not too frequently to the point of irritating customers or too infrequently to the point of being forgotten) and align your campaign with a strong identity program that is consistent with your brand.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer loyalty is built by giving value first in all aspects of your business. As a small business owner or manager, you need to commit to offering the best products and/or services.

Ensure that you regularly ask your customers for input and feedback (and both listen to it and act on it) to continuously improve your processes.

Your customers will respond to the value that you add, not only to the solution you propose but also to the relationship you build together.

Buyers Needs and Wants

What do customers want? Market research says that customers have an expectation of good quality, good price and good service; that is the minimum requirement for doing business today.

What more do you need to provide?

Knowledge. Reliability. Consistency. Communication. Discover what your customers value, and provide it.

Note: customers have unique and individual needs; they do not all value the same things. Make sure you clearly understand what each individual customer or market segment wants or needs.

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Sales: Making Contact

In a business to business selling environment, it used to be that it would take between seven or eight touches to make a sale (or not, since not all contact means that a prospect will buy).

In this Internet age, it takes more touches.

Why? Because we have become both 'ad blind' and somewhat 'insensitive' to touches.

What this means to the small business owner is that your communication (and touches) need to be different from others (not imitations or copies of what everyone else is doing), it needs to be believable and sincere, and it needs to be memorable.

The Sales Cycle

In a business to business sales environment, the selling cycle takes longer to close (and is often more complex) than ever before.

To effectively grow your sales, you need build a plan that will help you to optimize your efforts.

Focus your planning efforts on a lean sales process that: will solve your customer's problem or challenge; has value (i.e. reduces time and/or cost); provides not only what the customer wants but more than has been identified (over-delivering); and that provides a solution that offers convenience, high quality, a price that is acceptable, competitive and covers the business' costs, and exceptional service.