Building long-term relationships matters, regardless of your industry. When identifying a business partner, someone whom you will either spend a significant amount of time with or make a large investment in, it’s important to make sure their qualifications expand past the product or service at hand. You need to trust that they not only understand your organization but also your long-term goals and objectives.

For salespeople, this type of relationship is a high bar to achieve and requires a disciplined approach. To succeed, they must understand the many factors that go into building lasting relationships and develop the skills to build relationship strategies. However, the pressure to meet numbers before the month closes often means salespeople, especially more junior ones, can overlook these crucial relationship-building touch points. For a successful sales organization, train team members on the significance of being relationship-oriented and how to integrate that approach into their day-to-day activities.

Finding the Right People

It’s important for sales professionals to ensure that they are putting their efforts into the right contacts, who will help them understand the organization, its people and their problems. This strategy is critical to accessing the right people and providing your company’s unique value proposition. It will also enable salespeople to uncover upselling opportunities.

When a salesperson accesses the right people on the buying committee and delivers personalized value messages, his or her likelihood of success is dramatically higher. Train sales professionals to pay attention to how the company works, the relationships within the company and the politics of the organization. They need to be able to map the people and actively manage their relationship status across the entire account and team.

When developing a business relationship training strategy, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What people matter?
  • How do they think?
  • What is your current relationship?
  • How can we help team members manage and track their relationships?
  • What are the relationship gaps?
  • Most importantly, how can we bridge those gaps?

Developing Customer Intimacy

The key to elevating and expanding relationships comes down to the sales professional’s ability to create, measure and communicate value to the customer and show them that they have a complete understanding of their goals and pain points. Client intimacy means that the salesperson must have a deep understanding of the client’s goals, pressures and initiatives. Not only do they need to understand macro-level business, but they also need to understand which people own the key projects and why initiatives are important. Connecting the people and the problems at multiple levels of the business enables the sales professional to develop a strategy to deliver value and capture the sales.

To determine where they need to go in terms of relationship with key individuals, the sales professional must assess the relationship that’s required, which is where training comes in. Salespeople can learn to address and assess the correct individuals in order to feel confident in how to proceed. The level of business impact corresponds to the relationship needed; higher impact requires a higher relationship threshold.

Making Relationship Strategy Part of Daily Sales Behavior

While building skills and developing training is important, making relationship strategy part of daily sales activity is even more so. According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, 48 percent of fast-growth companies “invest significant time and resources in sales training,” and only 22 percent of slow-growth companies do.

However, training is only effective if it is built into the daily workflow. The study also reiterated that within three months of training, learners remember 10 percent of what they hear and 32 percent of what they see. There’s still hope, though, because learners can still remember 65 percent of what they “learn by doing.” By bringing training and continuous learning into sales professionals’ workflow, you can significantly enhance their output. Bring relationship mapping and tracking into your CRM and other management systems to help account teams visualize relationships and track their progress. When they take the time to map people and their behaviors as they progress through the sales cycle, sales professionals will find that their relationship strategy emerges clearly. From there, they will understand the value to communicate and to whom they should communicate it.

An immersive on-the-job training program, paired with the tools to navigate the customer and connect to the right people effectively, will position sales professionals as people who are well-prepared and armed with important insights. In doing so, they will align with the customer to devise solutions that deliver mutual benefit and value.