Are you building relationships?

Matt PlappHave you ever been sitting through a sales pitch and wondered what the other person is thinking about while the spew senseless product stats and talk your ear off?  Are you tired of losing sales and clients because of price?  Read below!

In my past life in the boat business I can think how this example played out to show the value of a relationship.  We purchased a small boat dealership that sold Mercury, Johnson, Evinrude and Yamaha outboard motors.  Mercury was 99% of their business and Yamaha was a very small part of the remaining 1%.  Within the first year we got to meet our reps from each company.  Our Yamaha rep, Terry, was new to the business and was a hustler.  Our Mercury rep was an industry veteran and thought his home office was where he should spend most of his time.  I’ve always been a big believer that you have to see your clients on your terms, not theirs.  Meaning, don’t think you’re doing your job when the only time you see them is when they make the effort (like attending a trade show).

Our Yamaha rep was by our store every 4-6 weeks.  He never negative sold, in fact, most of his visits were just to say hello and talk about life and family.  When he did talk about products it was to point out subtle differences and talk about their current promotions.  He went out of his way to become friends with all of our sales staff and took great care of them.  In fact, he realized that our sales people controlled what our customers bought more than anyone else.  The Mercury rep would have had a hard time naming 1 of our 7 sales people.  Long story short, within 2 years we were a top 10 dealer for Yamaha in the US.  They went from under 5 motors sold per year to over 170, while Mercury dropped off the map.

This change had nothing to do with the product, let’s face it, every company has a competitor that offers very similar products.  This came down to a relationship.

Flash forward to June 2011.  I was attending a franchise dealer meeting with a client in Las Vegas.  This meeting included break-out sessions with many of the manufacturers whose products are sold in their stores.  We attended around 6 of these sessions and I had a hard time not falling asleep…EXCEPT in 1.

The first 5 sessions were all the same, a sales rep standing in front of 100+ people puking product info.  In fact, most of them read from their product book/labels and told us EVERYTHING that we could care less about.  As a person who has sold many different products I understand what it takes to close deals.  It’s not talking about the compression of the cylinders, oil to gas ratio or every ingredient in a particular product.  Your customers want to know a little of this, but they mainly want to make sure your products or services have the benefits to live up to their expectation and that you will take great care of them.

THEN there was Pat.  Pat was a machine.  The 2 days before his presentation I watched him on the show floor.  EVERYONE knew him.  He had more hugs, high fives and screams of any booth/rep in the show.  This showed me his relationships were deeps.   He not only had 100+ people in the room, it was STANDING ROOM ONLY.  Afterwards I knew why.  Pat had the same 1 hour slot as everyone else.  But instead of spending 58 minutes on his products like the others, he spent maybe 5 minutes.  Instead of boring us with the product info he talked to his audience about what he knew would really help them:

1.  How to get customers in the stores.

2.  How to keep customers coming back to the stores via relationship building.

3.  How to up-sell for more profits.

He had energy in his presentation that I’d not seen in a long time.  His passion, past retail experience and understanding of what it took to help his clients was spot-on.  He talked about creating relationships (ironic since he was practicing what he preached), how to create loyal customers and how to pair his products with his competitors to increase your average ticket and profit margins.  It was great and even better to see that my client spent most of their money with him.

The point of this is simple.  Customers don’t care that much about ratings, options and features.  THEY WANT YOU and the benefits of dealing with you and your company. I challenge you to stop and watch your staff’s sales presentations.  Go on client visits with them and see how strong their relationships are.  Here’s a hint, if 98% of the visit is about your products and not the life and family of them and their customers…THEY DON’T have relationships or long term clients.  They are a commodity.  Their replacement is 1 incoming cold call.  Price and features only go so far, customer loyalty is built on relationships.

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at

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