Why “People Buy from People” Is Still Valid in the Digital Age

September 25, 2019 5 minute read

Let’s make the distinction straight out of the gate. People buy from people, but not necessarily from people they like. They buy from people who add and provide value to their organization; getting on like a house on fire is a bonus. In 2020 one might expect companies to purchase software directly from a website, company credit card in tow, but that’s not the case. There are veritable armies of business development, account execs, key account execs, and senior sellers there to win deals and grow revenue.

The human touch enables a genuine relationship and trust to be develop between the two parties. Trust goes a long way in sales since there is an opportunity to establish a connection at all sales cycle stages. More than any other profession, sales teams are fully aware that successful communication with leads and prospects is paramount. Whether it be by email, a phone call, or in person, it’s essential to maintain the human connection.

Among various buzzwords that salespeople are likely to be associated with, ‘relationship selling’ is top of the list. As simple as it may sound, this term brings confusion. Is relationship selling part of a process? Does it refer to customers or to everyone in sales? Does it apply to teams or just to individual salespeople? Is it transactional?

In the simplest terms, selling by building relationships with customers/prospects is about understanding what matters to your customer and communicating the value you can bring. It is about adding a human element to the conversations, proving that you know your customers’ needs, and solving their business problems. Doing this in a way that conveys their value and importance to your organization is the art of building relationships and making the relationship work for both companies.

Personal relationships work best when there is a reasonable degree of reciprocity. Relationships will never be completely equal. 50/50 never happens – at least not from your perspective, because after all, it is your perspective, and that will always be different from the customer. Accepting that, though, we can still both accept that a relationship with a fair degree of reciprocity is better than one that is one-way or unbalanced. Like all good relationships, we all need a little give and take. Whether you are typically a buyer or a seller, it is equally important to remember that if I you a lot, it is reasonable to expect that you will like me back or tell me why you cannot.

One of the greatest sales myths is that you have to achieve ‘Trusted Advisor’ status with everyone. While that might be nice, the reality is that it’s impractical. That might be nice, but it is impractical. The investment required is just too much, and when you try to reach that level with everyone, likely, you will not have enough time to spend on the relationships that matter. It’s the peanut butter problem – spread it too thinly, and it doesn’t taste good anywhere. To understand where you need to get to in relationships with key individuals, you must assess the connection required.

Relationship-oriented sellers prioritize their connection with the customer over all other aspects of the sale. They develop trust – by adding value and spending a lot of time with prospects – before and after attempting to close a deal.

That’s how it is in personal relationships and also in the relationships between customers and their suppliers. (It is never just business – it is always personal.) The relationship cannot be optimally valuable to either party without open collaboration, respect, and trust. The complexity of the purchase and the organizational impact of its deployment shades the absoluteness of this statement. If you are ordering a burger or a coffee to when you’re buying a new ERP system for your company, the core tenets of reciprocity and respect apply.

With Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning increasingly leading sales, the sales team struggles to humanize their processes, and face a growing need to establish trust with their customer.

Data shows that customers don’t trust companies. According to an Altify benchmark study from 2019, only 36% of customers trust the company’s advice, and 59% trust that of peers in other companies. Also, AI and Robotics offer an uptick in efficiency but cut out the relationship (trust) building of human interaction. 45% of survey respondents named Advancement in AI as a significant disruptor in the business landscape. The bottom line here is that people are the real influencers.

The real problem happens when a business model may be more automated than humanized or vice versa. By delivering insight, knowledge, and value, based on customer’s unique goals, salespeople can fully benefit from the relationships they have built and the trust they have earned while dealing with a customer/prospect.

So, moving away from the legacy approach of pushing their agenda, salespeople should move to a revenue optimized process where ‘what does our customer need’ and how we can help them is the value that every human conversation can add to a sales discussion.

Shifting behavior requires a strategy to align with the customer, methodology to guide selling, and technology to connect everyone on the revenue team. Tying these elements together creates a heightened value for the customer, making it a long-lasting, value-based relationship between the entire revenue team and the customer.

Want to build your relationship strategy? Check out the 21-day free trial of our relationship map.

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