Jun 7 2016

By Larry Myler,

Business development is all about persuasion. But those who begin relationships by trying to persuade are missing the point. Better to begin relationships by establishing them. Here are four ways to do it.

Give value before your get value. The classic book Influence (Harper Business revised edition, 2006) by Robert Cialdini, reveals something powerful about giving. It creates a sense of obligation, or reciprocation, that can drive the receiver to respond in like manner. Examples of interactions that can engage the principle of reciprocity are producing valuable content marketing, solving a problem, and doing meaningful favors. It’s much easier to sell something to someone after you have given genuine value. It is human nature to want to give back.

Prove your concept through contrast. I started my first business (window washing) when I was 16 years old. The sales method that I developed at that time has served me well in subsequent businesses. The pitch went something like this. “Hello, I’m Larry and I’m washing windows for people on your street today. May I show you how I produce the perfect window? I can demonstrate my method on this front window right here.” Few residents could refuse this offer. I would then wash one pane of glass, explaining how I get in the corners and avoid streaks, while leaving the surrounding pains or adjacent windows unwashed. The contrast was always startling, and my future customer would be surprised by how dirty their windows were. My close ratio was north of 50%. This method will work for any business that can perform a small portion of a larger contract, and thereby prove the value of the offering.

Share an adventure with your prospects and clients. You could take a prospect to lunch, dinner, or a local NBA game. Such venues are excellent for building relationships, but they are also fairly common. Assuming that the depth of bonding and rapport building is directly proportional to the quality of the shared experience, a round of golf will not create the same connection as a true adventure. Jim Lindblom is the owner of Glacier Bay County Inn, located in Gustavus, Alaska, right on the edge of Glacier Bay National Park. “Many of our guests are actually business people who bring prospects and clients along with them. There is so much to do here—fishing, whale watching, hiking, hunting, kayaking, bear watching, flight seeing, glacier exploring—that by the time people leave here they have created shared memories and built relationships that will last a lifetime.” I think Jim is right. I once took an 8-day river trip through the Grand Canyon with a group of business contacts. That experience and those relationships have made a lasting and indelible impression on me. There’s just something about getting away, disengaging from work, and connecting with fellow adventurers that cannot be replicated in everyday surroundings.

Establish genuine trust quickly. The Speed of Trust (Free Press, reprint edition, 2008) by Stephen M. R. Covey provides an excellent road map for building trust with prospective and existing customers. I highly recommend this book. Of course, suggestions 1—3 above can also establish trust. Speaking of trust, there is an attitude that I have observed that seems to build trust more quickly than anything else, and that is wanting to help a prospect more than you want to make the sale. This attitude is embodied in phrases like, our product may not be right for you; if what we offer doesn’t work for you I can recommend a competitor who might be a better fit; or, we can’t completely satisfy everyone so I hope you’ll let me know how we would need to change what we do to better solve your problem. We can all tell if a sales person has our best interests in mind, and at times they do not. When the welfare of your prospect is more important than hitting quota, you’ll probably start hitting quota more easily.

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