Selling Products vs Relationship Building

Do you clearly understand what your goals are when setting up sales targets? 

In my many years of coaching clients, I have found that most business owners don’t really understand what their sales goals should be. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small business owner, a CEO of a big company or a sales manager of a brand-new start-up.

They often don’t understand what their sales goals need to be to take their business to the next level.

When helping business owners sharpen their business development strategies, I begin by asking them the following question;

Is your goal to sell enough products or services to reach your sales targets? Or is it too build quality relationships with customers to turn them into clients, who will then provide a sustainable, recurring revenue base?

It’s important to understand the long term effects these two different selling strategies have on customer experience, company reputation and revenue. In the first strategy, customers are sold to. In the second, they buy. There’s a big difference.

The difference to you as a business owner could mean a successful business that continues to grow year after year or a long term struggle with cash flow.

Creating a Sales Team

There is a very important element that many CEO’s, small business owners and sales managers do not consider when establishing their sales teams.

That very important element is the culture of their organisation. 

Your company culture eventually establishes your company’s reputation. The company’s reputation is something you can leverage to grow your business in the business world.

The starting point to developing a highly effective sales team is to align the values of your sales team with the values of your company. If you have a misalignment between the two, you place your company reputation and integrity at risk. This, in turn, affects long term revenue and ultimately, the success of your business.

Aligning Your Values

Let me explain. Let’s say you are a CEO of a big company or a small business owner, and you wish to establish a positive company culture based on values of trust and integrity. You want your clients to know you really care about them, that you’re genuinely concerned with their levels of satisfaction. 

On your website, your brochures, your business cards and on all your touchpoints you promote “Customer service comes first. We go the extra mile to make you smile. We really care” etc., or something along these lines.  

The reason you use these “value slogans” is because you want your customers to believe you really do care or offer exceptional service. 

Customers, however, do not read a value slogan and say “that company says it cares, therefore I will go and buy from them”. Customers need to experience your company values and culture to believe you do what you say. If you get this correct and your customer’s experience is aligned to what your value slogan promotes, you establish a positive reputation. 

But how many companies get this alignment right. The truth is very few. 

So where does it start to go wrong? 

At the point of sale! Because this is where most customers start to form an opinion of your company.

So, let’s take a look now at the effects of a sales team designed to sell products and services, rather than establish client relationships.

The basic difference between sales strategies is that one is product focussed while the other is client focussed.

The product focussed strategy is based on a numbers game. Sales teams are trained to promote the benefits, features and uniqueness of their products

There is very little, if any, training on how to identify the needs of a customer. The customer’s needs and wants have to be established for a connection to be formed between the customer and the product the sales team is selling.

So what happens here?

If your sales teams are taught to sell, rather than get customers to buy they operate in force mode. What do I mean by this? They have to convince, manipulate or push the customers into buying. 

The reason they need to do this to close the sale is that the emotional connection between the customer’s needs and the product has not been established. So, a force or push is necessary to get the customer over the line.

How do customers feel about pushy salespeople?

Ask yourself. What opinion do you form of a company whose salespeople care more about closing the sale, than you walking away with the correct product for your specific need?  

The Winning Sales Formula

Customers want help solving problems in their lives. They look for advice and guidance when choosing a service or product because they want their problems to be solved for them.  

That’s why the emotional connection is so important.

Find the need, establish the connection and provide the correct solution.

This is the winning formula for successful and sustainable sales teams.

The sales strategy of selling products cannot achieve this winning formula. Depending on how customers receive help (if at all) during the sales process, determines the beginning of their opinion of your company. Their final opinion is cemented only after their experience of using the service or product purchased and whether it actually solves their need as it was intended to do.

If the product or service does not solve their needs, they react emotionally. They feel ripped off, and they feel the salesperson does not know what they were talking about, or the company advertises falsely etc.

Implementing a product focussed sales strategy is flawed from the beginning. 

A smooth-talking salesperson may sell a customer a product by convincing them it will solve their problems. The customer may then walk away feeling ecstatic at that point.  

However, once they realise the product or service does not solve their need, the backlash is chronic. The integrity and honesty of your company is then under attack. In these situations, your company’s reputation has just taken a permanent dent.

Dealing with Disgruntled Customers

But it does not end here. The next part of the sales cycle is where the product-focused sales strategy really begins to tarnish your company’s image. That next part is dealing with disgruntled customers.      

Salespeople (or customer care teams) who are trained with a product moving mindset, are not particularly skilled at handling customers complaints. You usually don’t find customer care teams in organisations that are purely product focussed in the first place.

Handling customer complaints is a skill that is very different from selling products. The former is post-sale while the latter is pre-sale. Generally, most product focussed salespeople have no interest in post-sales activity or issues as their drive and targets are geared towards closing the next sale. Customers with issues are seen in this environment as an inconvenience and an obstacle getting in the way of the next sale. 

In this crucial stage that customers formulate their final opinion of your company. And, it may be completely different from the initial opinion they had when they first walked out of your company doors.

It’s very important to remember this:

Your customer’s overall opinion is the foundation of your company’s reputation. And your company’s reputation reflects the culture of your organisation.

Eroding Your Reputation

As a CEO, you may be trying to build a solid company culture and image. And, you may be very pleased that your sales teams are hitting targets.

However, if the strategies in which your sales teams are reaching their targets are contradictory to the values, you as the CEO have set for your organisation, you have a serious problem. You then have two sets of values pulling your company reputation apart.

Driving big targets through a counterproductive sales strategy has a negative compounding effect. The faster and harder you drive your sales strategy, the faster and harder you erode your company’s reputation.

How is this? What is the compounding effect?

Churning out or burning through customers on a daily basis in order to hit sale targets multiples the number of opinions of your company. To make a sale in a very short time frame means coming up with urgency and pressure tactics to convince the customer they need the product. 

Most people do not like to be sold too, especially when they are forced into a pressurised situation. You may get the sale and tick off another customer, but you’ve lost a client in the process.

Every time your team closes a sale, you should be asking yourself;

“What is that customer’s opinion of my company now. And what will it be like when they use our services or products?”

These opinions are how you build your company’s reputation.  

If you found this business coahcing post informative & helpful then click over to read Strategy #2 – Customer Lifetime Value vs Transaction Value

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Trying to survive in business can be exhausting, especially if you are always trying to solve the problems yourself. Are you frustrated, confused, and not sure what to do next? This is not how the picture of your business should look.

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