Business relationships are no different than personal relationships. Things can go awry when we take things for granted, become less appreciative or neglect the details that first built the strong relationship. When a competitive large sales opportunity presents itself with an existing client or customer an easy trap to fall into is, trusting your key contact (the one with the strong relationship) to do your selling for you.
When you are servicing an account, making small or average sales you will tend to work with the same person for all the buying decisions. You build a strong relationship and there is trust being built. When a new system or major purchase is being considered it is easy to continue selling to the same person you always have in the past, trusting them to do your selling up. This usually happens for a couple of reasons. One; you are getting good vibes; they are saying they will recommend you and two; it is sometimes awkward to work around them to their boss and peers.
On the other hand, the competitor is going straight to the top to sell down, instead of up. If they get to the top level and convince them of their value, your years of relationship can be in serious jeopardy. You obviously don’t want this to happen, so I recommend the following sales tips to prevent losing what should be yours.
Do your job. Remember you have a job to do, not just a relationship to build. As a sales professional we are there to help buyers make quality decisions, hopefully in our favor. If there are new buyers with authority to make a larger purchase they deserve to hear from you so they can make a quality decision just as your regular contact has in the past.
Don’t take anything for granted. Every buying decision must be justified. Never let the past be the justification for a new buying decision. Perform your quality discovery and present a solid ROI. Don’t let the “good feeling” from your solid relationship cause you to take a short cut.
Don’t get bogged in technology and features. When you are servicing an account you will tend to discuss features and technology more as the buyer is already sold on the strategic advantage of doing so. When a larger purchase is in play and new buyers are involved, make sure you are talking about their strategic objectives and how your offering will help them solve their high level problems. Talking tech or features to higher level buyers will weaken your sales position.
Take the lead. You don’t need permission from your long term contact to do your job. Lead them in a way that makes them look like a champion for doing business all the years that they have.
When things are comfortable it is easy to fall asleep on the job. If you approach each sale as if you were winning it away from your competitor you will stay sharp, serve your customer and preserve a strong relationship for the future.