Most B2B sales are based on relationships. But how do you build a relationship with someone you’ve never met?
I’ve noticed a theme in my LinkedIn account recently – Gillian Selby wrote a post about how you can’t plan a wedding before you’ve gone out on a few dates, and people are constantly sharing their frustration with connection requests that become immediate sales pitches. That’s not relationship building, is it?
There’s all sorts of advice from LinkedIn and other online marketers that suggest you should comment on prospective client’s posts, share content that you think they’ll value, and begin to build a relationship with them online. Except for one thing. I can spot those attempts at ‘relationship building’ a mile off and I’m guessing you can too. Too many of them are done by robots for a start!
If I think I might genuinely need the service that I know is behind these ‘friendly’ outreaches, I might take action. In most cases, I already know someone else that provides the same service that I will buy from when I need it and I am somewhat irritated by these blatant attempts to be my friend.
I say only somewhat irritated because I completely understand what this person is trying to do, albeit poorly. Afterall, as a sales consulting and support firm for small businesses, I’m most often on the outreach side of the relationship.
And yes, most B2B sales are based on relationships. So how can you begin to build a relationship with someone you don’t know and are unlikely to meet in person?
Slowly. And from a place of genuine service.
I’m working on a sales strategy for a new client who already has a tremendous reputation in the market they serve, but are ready to tackle larger clients who may or may not know of them. Those clients are likely to already be working with someone else.
How are we going to build relationships with those larger prospective clients? We’re going to integrate sales and marketing efforts – it’s likely that my client will encounter these prospective clients at certain events.
We’re going to let them know that we admire what they’re doing and what they stand for in their businesses. We’re going to share thought provoking, valuable content that is relevant to what they’re hoping to achieve. And we’re going to let them know that we’d like to get to know them. We are NOT going to sell to them.
We’re going to focus on what my client does that has value to these organizations and take slow, careful steps to arrange a conversation. Not a sales conversation. But a conversation about what they both value.
And then we’ll make sure to stay in touch. Because we’ve confirmed that they value the same things, we’ve asked them to share what’s important to them and we’ve listened to them. Depending on what we’ve heard, we’ll adjust what we do next.
There will be no selling until the prospective client is ready to have that conversation.
That’s how you build a relationship with someone you’ve never met.
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