For three decades my friend was a successful salesperson. He was gregarious, charismatic, and charming. His method was to develop a personal relationship with his clients that was very much a friendship. He would invest his time and his money in that friendship. If his clients wanted tickets to the game, he’d buy them tickets. If his clients needed some present for their children, he’d acquire it for them. He spent money on lunches, dinners, golf outings, and other things that deepened his friendship.
When we had lunch, he said to me, “My sales are terrible. I don’t understand. I am doing what I have always done, but it isn’t working.”
The reason that my friend’s approach quit working is because he did nothing to create economic value. His friendship and his willingness to spend money buying things to please his clients is no longer enough to win their business or their loyalty. The world changed, but my friend did not recognize those changes and, worse still, he did not change with it. He did not shift his focus to the areas where he can create value for his clients.
Your client relationships are still built on your being known, liked, and trusted. But the fundamental questions have changed.
- Known: It isn’t enough to be known. It’s what you are known for. What are you known for? Are you known for your ability to deliver some result? Are you known for solving some problem? Are you known for your business acumen and your situational knowledge? Are you known for creating value?
- Liked: It isn’t easy to buy your client’s business anymore. You still need to be liked. But being liked means something different. It doesn’t hurt to be gregarious, charismatic, and charming. But your client is trying to make a decision as to what it’s going to be like to work with you long-term. The decision they are making is what it’s going to be like to have you on their team. Are you like having a great new team member? Are you going to be easy to work with? Is the rest of their team going to want to work with you?
- Trusted: Great relationships, business or personal, are built on the foundation of trust. My friend’s willingness to spend money now subtracts from trust. It looks and feels unethical. It isn’t unethical for my friend to spend his own money, but it often can be for the person who accepts his gifts. The trust that you need is built on your ability to keep your word and your ability to delivering the outcome your client needs. How do you enable your clients to trust you? What do they need to trust you to do?
It is still known, liked, and trusted. But what these words mean has changed. You have to change, too.