Part two of our four-part series on Sales Myths that Just Need to Die takes on the sales myth that many people in the sales industry swear by, and that is that a friendly relationship with a prospect is enough to close a deal. 

Why Do Reps (and Sales Leaders) Believe This Sales Myth?

What is the #1 thing sales reps are told over, and over, and over from day one on the job? Build relationships. So, initial sales conversations kick off with small talk and simple questions aimed at rooting out commonalities with buyers. 

You love golf, they love golf. Winning! Right? 

Added your customer’s birthday to the calendar. You remembered when their spouse didn’t. BOOM!

And so on, and so on. All of these sales conversations aim at getting the customer to really, really like you. Because… the more a prospect likes a sales rep – the more likely that are to buy from your sales organization instead of your competitor’s. Right? Well, no. Not entirely. Sorry to tell you – it’s a myth.

But, before you purge your calendar of all those birthdays and unsubscribe from Golf Digest – let’s dig a little deeper. 

This is the line of thinking on which this sales myth is based:

  1. Establishing a relationship is essential to the sales process.
  2. Getting a customer to like you means that a relationship has been established.
  3. The customer will now buy from you because of this relationship.

Step one and two represent a basic misunderstanding of the importance of relationships. In all other parts of a rep’s life liking someone would be the first step in building a relationship. After all, you certainly wouldn’t set up a second date if you didn’t like the person on the first date. You may not even hire someone if you didn’t like them during the interview.

#3 is where the logic stops, because the difficult truth is:

A customer can like a rep and never buy from them.

  • A customer can also not like  – and still, buy from them. 
  • Liking a rep is not the key that turns a prospect into a customer- it’s far more complicated than that.

Buyers Don’t Need a Friend, They Need a Guide

Let’s go back to that golf example. If two people have a hobby in common, that can facilitate conversation which definitely helps build affinity. The customer may think, “This is someone I want to spend some of my free time with!” And that customer may look forward to hearing Monday morning tales of weekend adventures on the links. 

BUT… that doesn’t mean the rep will ever close this prospect. Why not? 

  • It could be that the well-meaning rep replied to a customer’s questions with more and more information.
  • Perhaps the customer engaged in the friendly banter initiated by the rep but really felt like all this talk was wasting their time.
  • Or maybe, the rep focused on making friends instead of making the sale.

These days buyers have it really hard…

Things have changed a lot since the early days of sales. It used to be that building relationships really was key to making the sale. But that was the good ole days of long lunches and company paid-for client outings. That was back when fewer decision-makers were involved in deals, there was lower job turnover so buyer-seller relationships could last decades, and there was no online world of information to access.

Now there is more product information available online than anyone could ever read. Multiple decision-makers are involved in deals, each bringing their own set of objections, biases, and experiences that can make the process of buying slower and more difficult for the customer. And there are often multiple solutions to solve their problem. 

It’s a lot to work through. What a customer can really use is a helpful, trusted guide.

“Customers who perceived the information they received from suppliers to be helpful in advancing across their buying jobs were 2.8 times more likely to experience a high degree of purchase ease, and three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret.”Gartner Research

So how can a sales rep become that guide? 

Building trust is the key. And again we aren’t talking trust on a personal level – remember sales relationships are different than personal relationships! In a sales relationship, trust means that the customer believes the sales rep:

  • Thoroughly understands a customer’s needs
  • Is knowledgeable about the product
  • Follows through on actions they promised to take
  • Doesn’t misrepresent offerings, pricing or features
  • Providing excellent service

Of course, it is helpful for reps to have a friendly relationship with their customers. But the best thing a sales rep can be is helpful along that difficult buyer journey. After all, a sales rep goes down this road with prospects every day. Sharing learnings from experiences with other customers, anticipating internal roadblocks, and helping them navigate the difficult path to getting a deal closed is how successful sales relationships are built. Even if you don’t share the same hobbies.

….And Prospects Need a Reason to Buy!

Let’s go back to that outdated line of reasoning. A sales rep can get so caught up on step two, getting a customer to like them, that they can skip the real point of a sales conversation – selling

If you have reps that often hear, “I like you a lot, however, I am going with another company…” It’s a sign that they may be so focused on establishing a personal rapport that they aren’t doing their job as sales reps. And if that’s the case, they could benefit from sales development in a virtual environment to get some risk-free practice in building sales relationships – before they cost your sales organization more revenue.

Happy Customers Are Less Likely to Buy More

Another counterintuitive fact to share with your sales reps: happy customers are more likely to stick with you – but less likely to grow with you. In fact, after years of research Gartner found there is no relationship between customer satisfaction and account growth. 

Why? Think of it this way, when you are satisfied you are less likely to want more. Whether it’s a SaaS product or meatloaf. 

Reps that focus on not only establishing trust – but also selling differentiators and tailoring their sale to a customer’s growing and changing needs will win the sale – and grow the account.

Have you had a lot of happy prospects who don’t pull the trigger? Or a lot of customers who are very satisfied at their current account level? Leave a comment and let us know how you motivate your sales reps to switch their focus from building personal relationships to establishing sales relationships.