Most sales trainers overly complicate the sales process. They teach techniques such as probing questions, trial closes, assumptive closes, and many, many other ways to make a sale. While these techniques have their place in selling, the true secret of sales success is building relationships with your customers. All things being even near equal, customers buy from people they like better than other people calling on them. Even if your initial quote is high, if the customer likes you and wants to do business with you, you will get “last look”. Many times your customer will even show or e-mail you your competitors quote because they want to buy from you. In over 35 years of selling when I have been given last look I can count the number of orders I have lost on one hand…with fingers left over.

How do you get customers to like you more than the competition? Here are some techniques I have seen work over the years:

  • Eat breakfast and lunch with a customer daily. One of our top sales people eats both breakfast and lunch with customers every day. Sometimes he even eats breakfast twice, with two different customers. “Why does he do that”, you may ask? Well, sometimes he calls or e-mails a customer and asks him to meet him for breakfast the following day but doesn’t hear back from him for several hours so he asks someone else and they accept. Then, the customer he asked first finally calls back and says that he can meet for breakfast. So, our salesperson has one breakfast at 7 AM and a second one at a different restaurant at 8 AM. This isn’t quite as tricky as dating two girls at once but you still don’t want to get caught at it so you should eat at different restaurants.
  • Entertain. Find out what your key customers like to do at night and on weekends and then do it with them. It’s just that simple. If you have a customer that likes to fish, take him fishing. If you like a customer who loves country music you and your wife should take him and his wife to dinner and a show. If you have a customer that likes to hunt, take that customer hunting. It really is that simple. Even if you don’t have an expense account you should still entertain to the extent that you can afford to. I think golf is the best way to entertain. With warming up, golf, and lunch or drinks afterward you will spend five or six hours with your customer and really get to know him or her.
  • Send cards and presents. You should send your key customers birthday cards, baby presents, graduation presents for their children, and the like. They don’t have to be expensive, and it’s actually better if they aren’t because then they look like bribes. A simple, thoughtful gift or card goes a long way in building relationships.
  • Get involved with their causes. If you have a customer who is deeply involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, the Red Cross, United Way, or another worthwhile cause you should get involved with these groups as well. Not only will you spend more time with your key customers but they will appreciate that both of you have a shared cause.
  • The Mackay 66. Harvey Mackay wrote a classic book of business advice in 1988 called Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive. In the book he touts the Mackay 66. This is a list of 66 questions for you to get the answers to regarding each of your key accounts. You obviously can’t get the answer to all 66 questions on one sales call or it will look like an interrogation. Keep the list with you and answer a few questions on each call. Over time you will know more about your key accounts than anyone else calling on them and that will result in a deeper relationship and more sales.

As I said at the outset of this post, most sales trainers overly complicate the sales process. If you aren’t already doing some or all of the above try doing it and I guarantee you will see your sales zoom.
Jim Sobeck is president of New South Construction Supply, West Columbia, S.C., and author of the Biz 101 blog at Contact him