Relationship sales

How to: Relationship sales journey’s for increased sales

Relationship sales is organized to deliver value, build relationship, understand the pain points and be present when it’s time to close.

Sales pressure is a common cause for rejection. Stop selling, build relationships and add value first.

  • Have you ever wondered why your obvious high value offers does not close?
  • Do you work hard on sales but few deals are closed?

Hear are the 5 things to do when you organize your relationship sales for improved sales results:

  1. Set relationship sales targets that makes you close deals – and it’s not the sales targets you think. More on that a bit further down.
  2. Plan relationship sales journeys for each sales prospect – you need 18 – 36 month milestone activies.
  3. You need to deliver value adding content – you will not deliver value with sales pitches.
  4. Make conversations and add value, not sales pitches – that is how you make yourself relevant.
  5. To deliver on sales targets you need multiple, parallel sales processes – it’s simple mathematics.

You will certainly see sales increases if you do these 5 things to organize your relationship sales. Over time you will see accumulative sales effects from up sales from those relationships.

Most importantly though, sales take time. You will need to be patient and prepare for prolonged sales processes. That is why you need multiple parallel sales processes and keep each of them moving.

So, let’s dig into how to organize a relationship sales journey.

Read more if you like to know WHY a relationship journey is a must to increase sales.

How to build relationships in sales

Relationship sales

To build relationships in sales we need to stop selling and build relationships. Selling is a real turn off, unless you happen to come at the exact right moment. This is how you build relationships in sales:

  1. Seek common grounds: Industry insight, trend observations, ambitions.
  2. Deliver value: Share industry observations, insight in how others have done, trends.
  3. Be present, don’t spam: Deliver value and build relationship, don’t make sells pitches to early.
  4. Stay focused: Niche down, customers seek expert advice, not general ideas.
  5. Be resilient: It takes 18 – 36 months to earn trust, become relevant, find pain points, suggest solutions and close complexed deals.

People don’t invest in machinery, IT-applications or services just because the features are good. Not even if the business case is outstanding. Comfort is key. Trust, relationship and timing are important to be relevant as a potential supplier.

What you sell fits to an existing process or a larger system or product to be sold. It can also be a replacement for an existing service, equipment or process.

Your prospect will not invest in your service or product unless they feel completely comfortable about you and your product.

Most customers also have similar situations as yourself. They are pre-occupied by their daily business, by urgencies that need their attention and by different planned investments. To build a relationship to understand their situation you need to exercise above five relationship sales activities.

Read more on how to grow tech companies beyond those early customers.

Read more about consultative sales.

The 8 practical relationship sales milestone targets that makes you close deals

Relationship sales

To be successful with relationship sales you need to understand your targets. You can manage your sales team with relationship sales milestone if you fully understand your relationship targets.

The 8 practical relationship milestone targets to close more deals in complex sales:

  1. Deliver value and insight: You build relationship and trust adding value, not by doing sales pitches.
  2. Build trust and relationship: You notice when the relationship starts to grow. That’s a major relationship sales target.
  3. Become relevant: Every business is targeted by different vendors with different solutions. Building trust and relationship makes you relevant. You’re delivering on the relevance milestone when you’re asked for your opinion in different cases you know.
  4. Find your prospects pain points: Being asked for your opinion makes it possible to nail their pain point. This milestone, which is a corner stone in sales, is reached when you agree on a certain pain point.
  5. Suggest solutions: It’s time to suggest a solution only when you have built trust, relationship and understand the pain point. Suggesting a solution, not making a formal quotation, is relationship sales target number 5.
  6. Continue deliver value and insights: This is how you nurse your relationship throughout respective relationship sales journey. Set targets for how many value deliveries you plan to make during the XX – YY long relationship journey.
  7. Understand timing and trigger points: Timing is critical but being preoccupied with many tasks makes it difficult also for your customer to steer their purchasing process. Your solution needs to elevate in priority with your prospect. You need to find the triggers that will make the timing right.
  8. Made a quotation and close the deal: Finally, when the timing becomes right and the trigger point occur, it’s time to kill. Make your quotation.

Relationship sales targets vs. quantitative sales targets

You notice with above that relationship sales targets are about the sales process, not about quantitative sales target. With these 8 relationship sales targets you will be able to gradually build a relationship, set milestone targets and manage your progress.

Quantitative sales targets are something else and we’ll come to that just a bit further down in this guide.

Plan relationship sales journeys for each sales prospect

Relationship sales

To manage your sales-team you need to plan each prospect’s own relationship sales journey. Each prospect relationship journey shall have clear milestone targets, like the 8 practical relationship sales targets listed above.

You assign a dedicated sales executive per relationship journey. Waking the relationship journey’s a team target will not work well. As a sales leader, you follow up on mentioned relationship sales targets and make sure your salespeople stay on track.

At one of my advisory assignments in the financial services industry I found out that the entire sales team focused on serving existing customers. They were greeted with customer satisfaction, but no wonder new sales were slow. We designed a new sales process, made roles and responsibilities clear for sales, account management and customer support. We sat new targets and the sales team got relationship sales journey targets and periodic quantitative sales targets. Gradually not only new sales started to grow but also up sales. Give it more time and we’re certain that the different relationship journey’s will start to deliver even more new sales.

How many prospects shall, and can, each salesperson manage at any single time?

The number of parallel prospects a salesperson can, and shall, manage at any single time depends on 4 things:

  1. The quantitative sales target defines how many closed deals the salesperson needs each year. Four deals per year is the target if each salesperson expect to sell for $2 mn per year and each contract average $0.5 million.
  2. The deal ratio is important to understand since all prospects don’t become a paying customer. Using relationship journeys in sales improves the deal ratio. You learn to know if and when to stop a prospecting process. If your average deal ration is 33% you need 3x as many prospects as the number of targeted sales deals. Targeting four deals per year you need 12 active relationship sales journeys.
  3. The length of each relationship journey also plays a role. You need 12 ongoing sales journeys, in above example, if your average relationship sales journey is one year. If each journey takes 12 years in average, you need 24 ongoing sales journeys per salesperson.
  4. Each salesperson has a different sales capacity. We’re all different. Be observant and guide, help, motivate and support those that need your support. That’s your role as a sales leader.

You need to deliver value adding content

Relationship sales

I spoked about delivering value to your prospects. Making sales pitches early on is not deemed as a value delivery by most potential customers. You need to deliver content that your prospects believe is valuable, not what you believe is important in a sales pitch.

Think outside in, what industry and business information will add value to your prospects. Not inside out only talking about your product features and use cases like you would do in your sales pitch. That is for a later stage when your about to suggest solutions for a specific pain point.

Here are 3 examples of value adding content. You should develop and deliver what’s relevant for your specific industry:

  1. Industry insights, trends and outlooks: Reports, white papers, social media posts in LinkedIn, etc.
  2. Stories how peers in the industry solve their challenges or improve their efficiencies.
  3. R&D and business development insights.

The purpose with this kind of content is to underpin yourself as a trustworthy industry leader (or thought leader, depending on your business).

In social media like LinkedIn you shall also deliver inside out personalized content. Featuring individual employees can be one such personalized content. The idea is of course to humanize your business and support the relationship journey.

The trick though is that the majority of content you deliver shall be industry insights, trend reports and so forth. Things that your prospects value in their business.

You will learn that content production is important. Your salespersons can’t just show up to try build longh-term relationships. They need to mix their meetings with value deliveries.

Analytical and content producing salespersons that know how to prepare their sales meetings are becoming a scare resource. Being a cocktail banker or travelling sales representative flipping product info pamphlets is no longer enough.

Make conversations and add value, not sales pitches

Relationship sales

Like all relationships you need to do the following:

  1. Find a common professional ground and interest. People seldom pay for we-solve-everything-enterprise-systems. You need to prove your and expert in your field so that you find a common ground and interest.
  2. Listening, don’t talk to much. You should deliver value, but your task is also to learn to understand your prospect. You need to find his/her pain points and build a two-way relationship. Keep that fast selling mouth in control. Listening is a good quality.
  3. Be reliable, truthful and deliver when you say so. Being on a relationship sales journey means that you are still building trust and comfort with your prospect. You have not earned your right to be sloppy.

Most of all: Be patient, be present, take the long-term view, make conversations, add value to your prospect, not sales pitches.

Accumulative sales effect is the reward from a well-executed sales process

A well-executed sales process rewards both the seller and the buyer with a valuable long-term relationship.

You will be well positioned for up sales possibilities if you also succeed delivering customer success and customer satisfaction.

A satisfied customer is also less price sensitive than when he does his first investment with you. Read more about pricing here.

Losing a sale does not necessarily mean anything more than bad timing. Keep nursing the relationships. Add customer value, sales pressure is a common cause for rejection.

I hope that you have found this guide on relationship sales valuable.

Read more why a relationship journey is a must to increase sales.

Read more about the importance about sales traction.

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Jonas Florinus

Jonas Florinus

Jonas has 25 years operational experience growing businesses, 10 years with venture capital and private equity and more than $8 billion in personal transaction experience. For the last 5 years Jonas has been an entrepreneur himself.
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