Did B2B Relationship Selling Die?

Did anyone read the obit?

In talking with sales and marketing experts, I sense many believe the internet and its constant flow of information put relationships in B2B selling on a death watch.

Selling is different now with social media.

How people buy has changed dramatically, leaving the need for relationships in the dust.

Don’t believe it.

You will never close large B2B opportunities without first building trust.

Without trust, relationships self-destruct.

Prospects will be reluctant to move forward with your solution for so many reasons: No need. No budget. No desire to fix the problem now. No urgency to move from the status quo. And no trust.

Any one of these reasons can stall a sale because no basis exists for the prospect to believe the salesperson is genuinely concerned about their interest. Lack of trust kills more sales than most salespeople think.

You can be the greatest salesperson on earth with all the skills to close business, but without trust and credibility with your prospect, you’re going to lose.

Let’s face it, few, if anyone, buy from people they don’t trust.

Trust is the biggest factor in creating stronger B2B buyer-vendor relationships.

So how do you create a bond of trust with prospects?

Put Yourself in the Prospect’s Shoes

Salespeople inundate prospects all day with product/service pitches not relevant to their situation. I cannot tell you the number of calls I get for home repair services and solar systems for my new home in the desert. In this era of heightened buyer expectations and information overload, traditional sales tactics like cold calling rarely work.

Companies recognize this dilemma and adapt with inbound marketing strategies like content marketing. They use CRM systems and integrate marketing and sales efforts to better understand the prospect’s buying journey with the goal to shorten the sales cycle and close more business.

Below, in another insight-generating LinkedIn survey of 1,000 B2B decision makers and sales professionals, trust came out on top again. For B2B buyers, trust is the number one most influential factor when closing a deal, ranking higher in importance than economic considerations like price or return on investment.

Trust has always been essential to relationship selling. Today, it’s just harder to earn.

Decision makers suffer from information overload and an embarrassment of choice. Their time is painfully limited. They’re more risk-averse and more reluctant to change.

Here’s the good news. If you build your sales process around the way your prospects want to buy, you can build trust.

And if you follow a few simple steps designed into the MERGE process, your effort will pay off.

1. Do your homework

B2B buyers expect salespeople to bring insight and perspective to each meeting. Begin with stage one of the MERGE process, Magnify, the research stage, and use your research to bring customized knowledge and expertise to the prospect. Look for triggering events and issues facing your prospect’s company or industry. Position yourself as a subject-matter expert so buyers can regard you as a trustworthy source.

The second LinkedIn study above found that 77 percent of buyers want sales representatives to integrate customized data and insights into their interactions. That same percentage said they would not engage with a salesperson who does not do their homework or know their business.

2. Build a solid business reason to meet

In your sales process, it is important to find common ground and begin your first conversation with a topic that resonates with your key decision maker. In addition, through your research look for a common connection.

According to more LinkedIn research, buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales professional if the contact is made through a shared connection. Eighty-seven percent of B2B buyers have a better impression of sales professionals who are introduced through someone in their professional network.

When you target a market with an effective messaging approach, you can enter a cold market and book meetings under favorable conditions. In the MERGE 2.0 eLearning modules, I show you how to accomplish this action, as well as how to increase your connection rate with C-suite decision makers. I also discuss a proven formula which has allowed me to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of products and services over the years.

3. Use your knowledge to explore and build credibility

Today’s prospects prefer salespeople who bring insight to their business issues and, ideally, who are considered thought leaders in their industry. In the cyberworld, prospects easily check out the salesperson’s credentials far more often than in the past. Sixty-two percent of B2B decision-makers say they look for an informative LinkedIn profile when deciding whether to work with a salesperson and 86 percent would engage with a salesperson who provided insights or knowledge about their business.

Relationship selling didn’t die. It took a deep breath and shifted directions.

So don’t delude yourself into thinking you can sell into a so-called relationship in the absence of trust or credibility. And to fill any voids, you must:

  • Become a lifelong purveyor of the power of trust
  • Deliver the value of your knowledge, expertise, and insight
  • Make it prospect-specific by doing your homework
  • Strive to learn more and give more value

See you on the upside,


For more information, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

News Alert

MERGE 2.0, read my latest book, now released by the publisher and available on Amazon to purchase.  Learn everything you need to know to book revenue in the new realities of B2B professional selling.

And, if you’re not a reader and prefer interactive learning, take our MERGE 2.0 online learning course.  Go here for more info.

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