Is developing a personal relationship with a lead as important as developing a professional one? The answer, quite simply, is no—especially when you’re dealing directly with those at the executive level.
Every lead is different, and some like to chitchat or engage more personally than others, but attempting to force a personal relationship can be to your detriment as a sales professional.
It is much better to avoid asking making statements like, “I hear you’re dealing with some bad weather up there this time of year,” and questions like, “Did you have any questions about the proposal we submitted?” that may sound desperate or phony, or too much like fishing expeditions, than to simply make your case, stick to the problems you’re trying to solve for the lead, and politely, and professionally, request a response to your appeal for the lead’s business.
Take cues from your leads. Leads may want to chitchat, but that doesn’t mean they want to hear a lot of feedback from you regarding their chit and chatter. Some leads may just want you to listen for a while. Developing a certain level of rapport is important, of course, but when it comes down to the wire, how you are going to help solve a lead’s problem is always going to be more important to the lead than how much he or she likes you or wants to be your friend.
Be personable, by all means, but professional, first and foremost. Talk about the weather if the lead seems to want to talk about the weather, but don’t bring up the subject first. Leads will respect you more if you stick to your message rather than shoot the breeze when they really have no interest in shooting the breeze, and they will actually appreciate it when you bring them back to the truly relevant subject or topic at hand when the conversation veers off course. They’re relying on you, as a sales professional, to do just that! Executives are busy people; respect their positions and their time, and they’ll give you the respect you deserve.
When people conjure up the image of a telemarketer in their minds, they conjure up an image of a fast-talking person full of quips and tricks that are, if the telemarketer is lucky and hits the right notes, enticing and amusing enough to keep a lead’s interest and eventually result in a sale. What people don’t conjure up is the image of an extremely good listener and interpreter of a lead’s actual motivations, desires and needs for specific services. This is unfortunate, as the former image leads telemarketers to believe that they should fit into some stereotype that most leads balk at and can smell like bad eggs from the beginning of a conversation. If you’re in sales, the latter image is the one you should try to embody when you pick up the phone.
Why? When you’re really listening, you stand a much better chance of building a genuine relationship with a lead and gaining a lead’s respect than when you’re that guy or gal who opens with, “I hear you’re dealing with some bad weather up there this time of year.” Quips, tricks and small talk make you sound like you’re just another hustler, fishing for fast results. Leads know when you’re really listening because listening results in comments and requests that are on point and yield results.
Should you want to get the lead to love you? Of course! Just don’t attempt to do it by launching a fishing expedition each time you pick up the phone. Instead, pick up the phone with the intent to listen and respond appropriately. You’ll be much more likely to develop a personal and professional relationship that results in high returns.