Of all of the aspects of running a business, how one manages relationships is arguably the most important ingredient. Today’s busy, high performing entrepreneurs have to juggle a lot of things at once, making it easy to become distracted and lose focus on what’s really important. Without question, the relationships in a business owner’s life and professional career are key to both personal happiness and success.
For starters, it’s vital that we all maintain a healthy life-work balance. What’s the point of being successful if you can’t enjoy the journey because you’re too stressed out or are unable to take sufficient time off to rest and recharge your batteries?
Secondly, to be true to yourself and those around you, it takes focus. I have rarely seen someone who is overworked and spread too thin do several things well all at once. The human mind can only take in so much input at once and process it effectively. When faced with cognitive overload, even the brightest among us become ineffective and prone to misjudgments.
One of the many areas you cannot afford to make mistakes is in how you treat those around you. Being thoughtless, rude, or dismissive is counterproductive and sends out negative energy. As I have written previously in my introduction to Michael Sipe’s article Does Your Business Have a Healthy Soul?, it takes positive energy to receive the same back from those in your world. Being likable is a valuable commodity so don’t squander it by becoming jaded or poor company.
When I need a boost to keep me mindful of maintaining my interpersonal relationships in a caring and positive manner, one of my top go-to people is Shelby Jo Long. A long-time member of the Strategic Advisor Board, Shelby is a remarkable force of nature. In addition to her result-oriented work in helping executives improve their interpersonal relationship skills, she has been a Business Communication professor in Montana where she taught classes in human communications.
In her own right Shelby is an excellent public speaker and has coached a wide spectrum of people on how to be more dynamic and effective communicators. She also has a black belt in persuasion and debating, a skill which has taken her around the world teaching seminars in New York City, Mexico, Bosnia, Ireland, and Morocco. Although she has a jam-packed coaching schedule, I advise anyone interested in improving their management and communication abilities to seek her out.
The time I have spent learning from Shelby has paid dividends I cannot even begin to quantify apart from saying it has made me a better leader, more effective advocate on behalf of my clients, and a happier, more fully rounded person. With that said, enjoy her most recent article discussing a topic on which she is truly a thought leader – relationships and persuasion selling.
Shelby Jo Long: The Importance of Relationship Selling: Know Your Prospect
All great salespeople – and most entrepreneurs – understand, relationships are essential to the continuity and success of all businesses. How much you value them and how well you manage them add up to profitability and longevity or insolvency and failure.
As in life, there are many relationships interacting with you and your business. They range from your employees, suppliers, partners, distributors, and customers, to marketers, influencers, and connections on social media. But of course, the most important relationship within a business is the one that can guarantee the lights stay on and your finances in the black. These are the relationships which drive revenue to the bottom line – your customers and your prospects.
Both relationships are key to keep your business flowing. One delivers your (hopefully) predictable income on a day-to-day, month-to-month and quarterly basis, while the other represents the future. Prospects are what you must depend on to generate growth by increasing your customer base. As in all relationships, the flow of prospects does not happen without communication. It takes time, effort, and strategic planning to give you the top of mind status which all companies strive to earn.
Whether it’s communication in the form of advertising, public relations, or lead generation, prospective new clients don’t just show up at your doorstep or on your website without a great deal of marketing and investment. Once engaged with the prospect, a precious opportunity is created to win the trust and patronage of that person who will either join your customer base or walk (or click) away in search of an alternative.
Selling begins with knowing who you’re talking to
When business owners and employees understand the needs and communication habits of clients, there is a higher potential for a business transaction. But, how can you increase the odds in your favor to gain the best chance of a favorable outcome?
Communication is key in the sales process. There is an important connection between the task of selling and the relationship that is built during a sale. The tension between the task and the relationship dimension between the buyer and seller is critical to a successful transaction. Building trust with your prospect begins with understanding of the different types of buyers and how to adapt your communication to mirror their wants and needs. The power of doing so can win your immediate business, future business, and a steady flow of referrals. Studies vary on this topic, but there is agreement on a few major themes. The typical buyer personality types fall into four categories: Assertive, Analytical, Amiable, and Artistic
Assertive: The assertive client likes to be in control. They are typically the ‘Type A’ personality and are competitive and goal-oriented. They are usually less concerned about developing a relationship with the people in their lives and your business and more focused on the outcome. When speaking with the assertive personality, be direct and fact-oriented. They may demand data and evidence of why your product or service is worthy of their patronage. Although they do respond to direct statements, they will also attempt to drive the conversation. To win their respect and earn their business you must take control and discuss results and the return on investment with these types of buyers.
Analytical: An analytical customer is thoughtful and comparative. They often have an inbred mistrust of sales people. They like to see the logic behind the purchase. Use facts and examples when selling to an analytical audience. Compare your product or service to your competitors and take your time explaining the reasons they will be satisfied with choosing your business. Ask questions and discuss some potential drawbacks to avoid risk. Analytical buyers greatly appreciate the extra attention and thoughtfulness rather than the sales pitch.
Amiable: This personality is friendly, loyal, and interested in a low risk proposition. These customers are primarily concerned with developing a relationship. It pays dividends to seek common ground through small talk and identifying with their motivations. Show interest in amiable buyers and they will reward you with immediate action and long-term patronage. They are loyal to service providers and salespeople with whom they choose to do business because they tend to avoid conflict and negotiation. If you show a personal commitment and attempt to create a relationship, you will gain customers for life with this buyer type.
Artistic: The artistically inclined buyer is expressive and usually assertive and impulsive. They typically have a short attention span and will make quick decisions. To them, the optimal outcome is to develop a solid, trusting relationship. They find accomplishing a task both fulfilling and rewarding. Engage this personality by telling stories and discussing experiences with them. You should try to land the sale with the artistic buyer on the first visit because they typically make decisions right away or cool off. Because they are assertive, you should use goal-oriented language to help close the deal.
Adapting your communication to your audience is essential in business. When you take the time to fully understand your prospects and your customers, you’re well on your way to refining your marketing and publicity messaging to meet their communication needs. Once you move in that direction, you’ll see the results in stronger relationships, a more loyal customer base, and a higher volume of referral business.
Try it and measure your progress through customer surveys, analytics of your digital assets, and monitoring the increase in goodwill and positive word-of-mouth customer testimonials.
Shelby Jo Long is CEO of Business Dynamics & Rogue Publishing Partners and SVP of the Strategic Advisor Board. She is also a tenured professor of Business Communication who helps businesses in their communication infrastructure and brand messaging strategy. Shelby is a bestselling author, a business strategist, and a professional speaker.