The Long-Term Ally


The Long-Term Ally

This role is all about the interpersonal aspect of selling and conveying a sense of shared purpose with the customer. Whether in a single 30-second phone call or a long-term relationship, successful salespeople know how to establish a human connection with customers and find opportunities to demonstrate its importance.

Star performers know how critical it is to develop mutual trust with customers. This enables them to enjoy benefits the average salesperson can only dream about, such as:

  • Access to information they can leverage to keep or enhance their business

  • A human connection strong enough to withstand major problems with the account, or even a new competitive product

  • An identification with their products or services so strong that they become one of the “benefits” their customers will fight to keep

How do they do this? According to our research, their success is built on the following clusters of practices.

They develop client relationships.

As one salesperson reported, “I was able to form a partnership with (the customer), where both of us were working together to make the product work; it wasn’t just one-sided.”

Another salesperson took over for someone the account didn’t believe had their interests at heart. “I reestablished the account based on trust,” the salesperson said, “and increased it from $65,000 to $160,000. I mended the fences and showed them I was supportive. I kept in close contact with them and monitored every aspect of their account. They needed to feel that they could trust me and feel comfortable with me.”

They keep communication open.

Effective salespeople find ways to communicate regularly with their customers. They know that even if there is no specific progress to report, customers appreciate knowing what is going on. Said one customer about a salesperson, “She checked in on a regular basis. I liked knowing that our account was on her mind.”

About another salesperson, a respondent said, “He would research their questions and then call them back. He made regular calls on his clients even if he did not yet have an answer. He was available for them day or night. No one before had given them such service. When they needed something, they called him directly.”

They become customer advocates.

It’s one thing to be nice to a customer. It’s another to do whatever you can to make the customer look good—in the eyes of that customer’s peers, boss, or own customers. “I’m always thinking, ‘OK, how can I help you be successful? How can I help you be a star in your organization?’” says one very successful accounting software saleswoman. “I don’t wake up in the morning saying, ‘I can’t wait to go out and sell something.’”

The following examples illustrate the negative behaviors that can undercut this role:

  • “He was almost a caricature of a salesman—loud, jovial, overfriendly.” (Buyer, transportation services)

  • “My broker failed to meet with me in person to review the proposal. Communication was all via fax, e-mail, telephone, and snail mail.” (Buyer, health insurance)

  • “While working a trade show, I misjudged a shabbily dressed older man. I let him walk right past my booth, hoping he wouldn’t stop. Wouldn’t you know, he stopped at the next counter and ordered four sets for his grandchildren. That was an $8,000 loss for me.” (Encyclopedia salesperson)