Strong and healthy relationships are built on trust and respect, and maintained through positive rapport. As important as these three fundamentals are to a relationship, I feel there is one final component that is often overlooked. Leaving this until last should not imply that it is the most important: far from it. Just as each leg of a table carries equal weight, so does each relationship fundamental: without any of the four, the relationship will lack stability.
Without further adieu, the final relationship fundamental: Value
All relationships, at one point or another, have an underlying exchange of value(s).
- Who do you go to when you need to vent?
- Who do you turn to when you seek financial advice?
- Who provides encouragement in times of struggle?
- Who do you run a new business idea through?
- Are there people in your life who rely on you? For what?
The point is, the value in a relationship is often overlooked because it is second nature; we never take the step back to see it.
The challenge with value, as it pertains to a sales relationship, is that your prospect or customer isn’t likely one of the people you listed above. Value lacks emphasis because it’s difficult, and takes extra time and effort to create.
One instance where we fail to add value is during the sales follow-up call.
“Hi, Mr. Customer, it’s Chris calling from Revolutionary Widget Inc. How are you? Good. I’m just calling to follow-up and see if you got my quote. You did? Great. Do you have any questions? No. Well feel free to call me if you do. Have a great day! Talk to you soon. Bye.” Rinse, repeat.
Help me find the value in that conversation. You can’t either? BECAUSE IT’S NOT THERE! (I apologize for the all-caps, I feel strongly)
I would imagine similar conversations happen hundreds of times a day with sales professional;, and it is completely meaningless. We are taking up a buyers’ time, just to see if their email is working: great!
What we fail to do is bring any true value to the conversation. Let’s assume that in my scenario I previously added value because I asked poignant questions and discovered the route of my prospects problems. Perhaps I added value when I presented or discussed my proposal, leveraging myself as much more than just a “sales guy”. A sales professional brings value at each stage of our sales cycle and our buyers’ buying cycle. Adding value never stops.
Every time you interact with a customer/prospect/buyer you must add value.
Providing value to a relationship takes time and effort, which is why sales people skip it. Sales professionals read publications, press releases, industry information; they talk to their existing customers about their business on an ongoing basis; they provide insight even when a prospect is not ready to buy.
That begs the question: what would a valuable follow-up look like? Unfortunately there is no “cookie cutter” for a value-adding conversation, because each connection and each person is different. Here is one rendition (as general as possible) of what I would say;
“Hi, Mr. Customer, it’s Chris calling from Revolutionary Widget Inc. How are you doing? Good. You know, I was reading an article about companies taking risks during some uncertain financial times, and it got me thinking about our meeting. I think you would like it. The author covers a wide range of industries and provides an interesting perspective: I’ll send you the link. Also, I’m glad I got a hold of you because I wanted to fill you in on some updates. I received verification on my end that we can adhere to your desired implementation deadline. In order to execute this program to your expectations, we will need to move this to the next step within the next week. Is there anything on your end that you foresee creating an issue for us going forward? No, wonderful. I look forward to hearing from you. And I’ll forward you that article, it’ll be worth the time to read it. Have a great week. Bye.”
See the difference? I’ve gone beyond simply “checking in”. I’m offering third-party insight, I’m leveraging past conversations by reinforcing established timelines, and I’m pushing this opportunity to the next step. Imagine the type of value you could provide an actual prospect that you have information, notes and background on.
Take some time today to think about the value you provide in your relationships; and the values of those around you.
“Values provide perspective in the best of times and the worst” – Charles Garfield, author of Peak Performance
“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett