Relationship selling is about building long-term relationships and should be the core of all modern selling strategies. After all, your ability to develop and maintain long-term customer relationships is probably the foundation for your success as a salesperson and your success in business. Therefore relationship selling requires a clear understanding of the dynamics of the selling process as they are experienced by your customer.
For your customer, a buying decision usually means a decision to enter into a long-term relationship with you and your company. It is very much like a "business marriage." Before the customer decides to buy, he can take you or leave you. He doesn't need you or your company. He has a variety of options and choices open to him, including not buying anything at all. But when your customer makes a decision to buy from you and gives you money for the product or service you are selling, he becomes dependent on you. And since he has probably had bad buying experiences in the past, he is very uneasy and uncertain about getting into this kind of dependency relationship.
What if you let the customer down? What if your product does not work as you promised? What if you do not service it and support it as you promised? What if it breaks down and he can't get it replaced? What if the product or service is completely inappropriate for his needs? These are real dilemmas that go through the mind of every customer when it comes time to make the critical buying decision.
Because of the complexity of most products and services today, especially high-tech products, the relationship is actually more important than the product. The customer doesn't know the ingredients or components of your product, or how your company functions, or how he will be treated after he has given you his money, but he can make an assessment about you and about the relationship that has developed between the two of you over the course of the selling process. So in reality, the customer's decision is based on the fact that he has come to trust you and believe in what you say.
In many cases, the quality of your relationship with the customer is the competitive advantage that enables you to edge out others who may have similar products and services. The quality of the trust bond that exists between you and your customers can be so strong that no other competitor can get between you. Life is all about relationships.
The single biggest mistake that causes salespeople to lose customers is taking those customers for granted. This is a form of "customer entropy." It is when the salesperson relaxes his efforts and begins to ignore the customer. Almost 70 percent of customers who walked away from their existing suppliers later replied that they made the change primarily because of a lack of attention from the company.
Once you have invested the time and made the efforts necessary to build a high-quality, trust-based relationship with your customer, you must maintain that relationship for the life of your business.
You must never take it for granted.