‘Getting Personal’ was voted as the Number 12 Sales Trends for 2011. Despite the advances in technology and the rise of the Internet, customers still want personal and single contact satisfaction. Contrary to some pundits who believe the role of salespeople is becoming obsolete with the proliferation of Internet and mobile technology, effective sales professionals and a personal approach to selling remains important to successful business this year and in the years to come. Smart salespeople are offloading functional and transactional activities to better concentrate on the personal aspects of selling, including understanding the customer’s business and providing more personalised service. Our client surveys show customers who know their salesperson by name are 90% more likely to stay loyal! But it’s more than just being ‘nice’ or friendly. Customers do like “nice” but they want more. Good salespeople recognise that customers buy from people they TRUST and that TRUST supersedes LIKE. Sure it helps to be likable but a buyer is looking for someone they can trust and work with over time. If you think it’s a simple walk in, present your product and walk awaythink again. Companies with a purely transactional mindset “walk-in-walk-out” mentality are finding it harder to sell and stay in business.

Companies with large turnover or salespeople with short tenures are in a difficult position to achieve customer familiarity and loyalty. One example is the business banking sector, especially in the SME business space. Here, there seems to be a revolving door policy when it comes to business bankers and relationship managers. The moment you think you have secured a good business banker, they’re gone and replaced with a new one and you find yourself starting over, explaining your business all over again. This presents a real problem for SME’s, especially in big cities. I hear many complaints from SME business owners about their frustration at the lack of care or interest shown by business banking. The only exception I can see in this are the business bankers living and working in regional and rural Australia. These guys seem to be more dedicated and committed. Their jobs are entwined with their lifestyle choice and they are genuinely part of the communities they work with. Their relationships extend beyond their jobs and they “get personal” with the people they service. By contrast business bankers in the capital cities are dime a dozen and don’t have to have interest in you because they can disappear into the crowd never really having to practice what they preach. In short big city business banking is impersonal and simply not as effective. This lack of a personal approach means city based SMEs are missing out.

The banks and other “transactional” based businesses are missing the fact that the customer wants to work with someone who will add tangible value to their business or life. These businesses need to start interacting strategically with their customers; offer beneficial solutions based on value and be consultative (listen and assist beyond the product). Almost every business is now in the service industry. Consultants, medical practitioners, professional services firms, the list is endless. Any business that sells expertise and time knows the importance of working to maintain healthy relationships with their clients because if they don’t bill anything they don’t earn anything. Product business, if they are to maintain their margins and build value in their client relationships beyond the product need to develop a ‘service business’ mindset and get personal. I know what I prefer. The business bankers I’ve met in regional and rural Australia are by and large decent people, who are genuine and interested in people beyond their jobs. Personally, I’d love to receive the regional and rural business banker approach in our big cities. What a difference that could make on all levels.

Getting personal is more than just showing up and being pleasant. “Getting personal” is about being personable, substantial, and authentic and applying these traits with your knowledge, experience, skills, creative problem solving and business acumen. To “get personal”, you need to work with your client with the intention of delivering results and caring about the outcome. Buy in to the possibility of making a difference to your clients’ businesses and personal lives and great things can happen. Getting personal is not some soppy, ‘wet’ idea, it’s what’s at the heart of all genuine relationships.   Remember everybody lives by selling something. Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

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