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Rule 4: Build Relationships for Repeat Business

Overview

Long-term relationships are based on trust and integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing. Trust is established by honesty, competency, consistency, and follow-through.

Time after time, salespeople describe their industry to me as "a relationship business," reflecting their belief that to cultivate repeat business, salespeople must develop relationships. As we said when we started, customers buy from those they trust. If they are misled, they take the solemn vow, "I will never buy from that company again." So developing and protecting the relationship you have with your customers becomes paramount to your ability to grow your business.

Salespeople also say that this is a people business, which it is. While sales depend on products or services and the companies that supply them, it's people who make decisions about whether to buy. Outstanding salespeople have a balance between their technical and people skills. Salespeople who are too technical may lose business when people can't relate to them. Salespeople who are too focused on the relationship may lose business to salespeople who are able to put together a good technical solution.

Relationships in this context are all about trust. Can your customer trust you to deliver what you've promised, when you've promised it, at the price you've promised, and to stand behind it with service when needed? If you were to ask your customers, you would probably find that most of them have been burned at some time in their careers by someone who oversold them. They don't want it to happen again. So when they find a trustworthy supplier, they value that relationship.

Too many salespeople work on a transactional basis. They are out to make the sale, regardless of whether it will lead to additional business. They won't turn down business that they legitimately should. They may overpromise and underdeliver. They may be product peddlers instead of problem solvers. They have no meaningful business relationship with the customer beyond getting paid for that one transaction. It's an expensive way to do business.

The relationship is about trust in how you and your company perform. Always keep in mind that it is your consistent delivery of solutions to your customers' problems that will keep them coming back.


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