Arraya Insights | May 27, 2015
Everyone in sales talks about building relationships and transforming customers into partners, but getting to that point is an intense process. A substantial commitment of time and energy, as well as a high-level of mutual trust, are all table stakes for a true partnership.
At Arraya, we don’t shy away from building those kinds of relationships, no matter how high the cost. In fact, doing so is in the vision we’ve laid out for ourselves as a company. Our goal is to be more than a solutions-seller. We want customers to see Arraya as a trusted advisor and collaborator.
I wanted to find out what building relationships with customers means to the members of my sales team and how they’re living the Arraya vision. To get some diverse insight on this topic I reached out to three of my Account Executives with a range of sales experience, spanning from one year to more than 30.
Ultimately, my goal with this post is to show how seriously we take it when we call customers our partners. I also hope to give new customers a better idea of what to expect when they walk into a meeting with an Arraya Account Executive.
What’s the difference between having a relationship with customers and selling to them?
Personally, I believe that when you have a relationship with customers, they want your opinion. They’re more likely to be very candid and open with you in what they discuss than they would be if they saw you as simply selling to them. When you’re selling, conversations stay very transactional. They rarely go beyond “Quote me this” or “Can you get me this at this price?”
I threw this question out to Paul, one of my Account Executives, and here’s what he thought: “Partnerships in business are built on trust. They’re not much different than marriage, really. It’s all about working together to plan for today, six months from now, two or three years from now and beyond.”
Another member of my team, Joe, pointed out: “If you just sell to them what value have you shown besides being a procurement avenue? But if the customer asks for advice and knows you will always do what is in their best interest, then you have something special.”
What’s your mindset going in to a meeting with a new customer or prospect?
Any time I walk into a meeting with new customers or prospects, I don’t go in thinking “I’m going to sell something today!” Instead, my hope is I’ll build rapport while learning about them and their environment. I also want to take the time to educate them on who Arraya is and what we’re all about.
“It doesn’t really matter if it’s a new customer or one I’ve worked with before, my focus is always on learning about the customer’s current goals,” said Eric, another of my Arraya Account Executives. “You can’t take a product-focus. You just have to be ready to ask questions and then listen.”
Paul said: “I believe people buy from people. That’s what it comes down to, so I want to find out about the person on the other side of the deal. I want to learn about who he or she is, what they’re like, where they’re from, etc. You can’t get anywhere without a personal connection. Not every customer will let you work at this level, but if they do, your relationship will be that much better.”
If you want to lay the groundwork for a partnership, what must happen right away? What must happen regularly?
A lot of decisions are made in that first five to ten minutes. People size you up and decide if they think you’re credible and that you’re able to help them. It’s important to put your best foot forward and make a positive first impression. After that, it’s all about doing what you say, being detail-oriented and bringing new ideas to the table – as long as they’re based on what you know about the customer.
Joe offered a similar approach: “Be proactive instead of reactive,” he said. “It’s important to find out what else customers are doing and why. The reason for that is I may be able to connect the dots for them and propose one solution that could solve their problems. That saves them from potentially going out and getting several tools to do the same job one could do.”
“Responsiveness is key throughout,” said Eric. “You can’t stop listening to a customer just because you’ve worked with them for a while. Being responsive leads to mutual wins and when you get a few of those, consistently and over time, that’s when you become a different type of person in the customer’s eyes.”
To learn more about the Arraya team and how we do business, check out our new website at www.arrayasolutions.com or reach out to us for more information.