7 tips to help build relationships and success in the year ahead - Zurich Financial Services' Sales Performance Director

| 25 Dec 2018

Bart Shachnow, Sales Performance Director, Zurich Financial Services, shares ideas from seven of its most well-received and frequently commented-upon Account Development Tip columns of 2018 in this article.

From email etiquette to turning setbacks into successes, these are the tips that resonated with their readers this year.

Bart shares in this original post:

1. Turn your setbacks into a strategy for success

Selling involves continuous rejection. It’s what you do when you don’t close a sale that can determine how successful you will be. Remember, we often learn and progress more from our mistakes and failures than from our successes. One of the best ways to get critical insights and information on a lost sale is to engage with customers who decided to do business with your competitor. Be professional and courteous when you ask them for feedback and what you might have done to improve the outcome. Most importantly, ask them for permission to bid on their accounts in the future.

2. When you've earned a referral, make your case to clients 

Referrals are an important part of being compensated for your work. We do a lot of important work for our clients that is not formally compensated. How you frame your request for a referral can be a game-changer. Don’t be reluctant to ask, and respect a client who turns down your request. Be specific about who and what you want in a referral. It may take a little more research on your part, but it can potentially reap big dividends.

3. Attending client events can deliver substantial benefits

Your clients often hold events for their prospects and customers. If you can attend these events, it could boost existing business relationships and develop new ones. Either ask your client directly or check the company’s activities or events calendar on its website. Be honest about your intentions, explaining that this is a way of getting to know the business better as well as a business development opportunity for you. You might also consider asking how your firm could provide support — for example, helping to subsidize an event (make sure you check your company’s entertainment guidelines before doing so) or providing a subject matter expert for a panel the client is hosting.

4. Are you putting enough thought into your emails?

The tone and content of your emails, especially important ones, can create lasting impressions with customers and prospects. Before hitting “send,” consider your message carefully, proofread your email and try to get a second opinion to ensure you have set the right tone.

5. Make your case for the sale from the customer’s perspective 

Is your sales presentation filled with clich├ęs and vague promises? Change your mindset — and your approach to sales — with a fresh perspective that demonstrates your commitment to prospective and existing clients. The key to this tip is looking at your pitch from their point of view: If you traded places with your prospect or customer, would your proposal or strategy resonate and be perceived as directly addressing their wants and needs? Too many sales proposals reek of self-interest and satisfaction of the seller’s — not the buyer’s — needs.

6. If you can’t avoid talking politics, embrace it as a learning tool 

In today’s heated political environment, individuals can take positions that may infuriate you, but they belong to people just like you and me who simply happen to have different points of view. Practice your listening skills by hearing out alternative points of view, even when they stand in sharp contrast to your own.

7. Making extraordinary efforts to meet prospects shouldn't be viewed as weakness

I’ve mentioned this in the context of salespeople telling me they don’t want to come across as “desperate” in their desire to meet with a prospect or client. On the contrary, depending on how you position it, taking extraordinary steps to set up a meeting (e.g., investing in a plane ride and overnight hotel stay just to visit one prospect) may  demonstrate to the buyer the passion and enthusiasm you bring to your work. Remember that business people want to develop alliances and relationships with individuals who are as enthusiastic about their business as they are. But before you hop on that plane, make sure that you’ve made the calculation that pursuing the account is cost-justified over the short, middle or long term.


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