Modern consumers are more self-sufficient than they’ve ever been. They are comfortable researching on their own, browsing reviews, or relying on referrals from colleagues and acquaintances when considering a purchase. In fact, 68% of B2B buyers prefer to research independently online, and 62% say they can finalize a vendor list based on digital content alone—without interacting with a seller at all.
Engaging with dynamic, well-informed customers means sellers must be more strategic to successfully close sales. The most effective sellers adopt a relationship sales strategy, which prioritizes providing fresh, meaningful value to modern consumers. Relationship selling is grounded in fostering strong, authentic connections with customers to promote sustained business success, enabling your sales teams to uncover new leads and drive greater revenue.
Refreshing your sales team’s strategy, priorities, and viewpoint
Relationship sales culture is about changing the conversation around value and creating a more effective way to communicate that value to customers. This approach allows sales employees—and the company they represent—to demonstrate that they genuinely understand and care about the priorities of their customers. In addition, sales professionals can use this strategy to show that the company they represent has a relevant and distinct point of view, and the expertise to help customers realize their most ambitious business goals. When done right, this modern strategy facilitates deeply valuable business partnerships that extend beyond the traditional buyer-seller relationship and fuel business growth into the future.
For sales leaders and business decision makers, building a relationship sales culture for their team requires proactive planning to ensure sellers can adopt the new approach as easily as possible. There are three key areas to keep in mind during this period:
1. Shift seller strategy
Researching leads is a crucial first step to enabling strong customer relationships. This allows sales teams to gain timely insights into the priorities and interests of prospects before making contact. For example, browsing an individual’s LinkedIn profile lets sellers keep an eye on the content that prospects like, share, and post. The research stage also allows sellers to ensure that they’re connecting with the correct person within an organization—and even discover new potential leads who function at the same level of business and present the same potential.
After researching leads, sellers can begin engaging with them online. When it comes to making decisions, 75% of B2B leaders say they regularly use social media to weigh their options—so platforms like LinkedIn are especially useful. This step allows the customer to become more familiar with the seller in an organic way. Finally, it’s up to the seller to reach out, ideally leveraging a warm connection or introduction to make the best first impression possible. It’s worth noting that 84% of B2B leaders at the beginning of the buyer journey look to referrals first. So keep in mind, using mutual contacts or shared relationships for a referral helps build a stronger introduction.
2. Shift seller priorities
While traditional selling focuses on the number of calls made or the amount of contacts a seller has reached out to, relationship selling prioritizes something else: investing in relationships. With this selling strategy, sales leaders should measure their team’s productivity by progress made in terms of investing in relationships, discovering new connections, learning new customer insights, and building stronger engagements. It’s critical for sellers to actively and consistently provide clear value—especially when customers least expect it. This focus area is particularly important to keep in mind because it encourages customers to begin viewing sales employees as valuable relationships—regardless of whether they’re interested in making a purchase.
3. Shift seller viewpoint
In contrast with traditional sales strategies, which limit the buyer-seller relationship to the duration of the potential transaction, relationship selling takes a long-term approach. Relationship sales strategies focus on developing a broader view of the customer journey, facilitating customer relationships that are meaningful before, during, and after a single purchase.
Although a lead might not be interested in making a purchase at the exact moment of initial contact, relationship selling focuses on maintaining a valuable seller-buyer connection. So, when that prospect does decide to make a purchase, there’s already a reliable, proven seller-buyer relationship in place for customers to refer to. Ultimately, the goal is for businesses to leverage their robust B2B customer relationships to become the trusted, go-to resource for B2B customers and their companies.
Laying the foundation for future business growth
Culture shifts can be challenging. But successfully adopting a relationship selling culture can empower sales teams to reach even the most ambitious goals. By shifting the sales strategy, team priorities, and seller behavior, businesses can develop higher quality customer relationships. And with higher quality relationships, business can develop long-term partnerships that make room for bigger business deals.
With a relationship sales strategy in place, sales leads and business decision makers can see a boost in brand loyalty, more mutually beneficial long-term partnerships, and even the rise of enterprise-level brand ambassadors. Successfully establishing and growing relationships with customers helps solidify industry leadership and lay a strong business foundation for the future.