"The economy, stupid” was a memorable phrase coined by James Carville when he was a strategist in Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign. His goal was to get the campaign message focused on a topic that would resonate with voters and yield results---which it did. “It’s the relationship, stupid” might well be the phrase needed to build great sales teams in today’s business environment.
More than one company is trying to figure out how to build strong relationships with their sales team as they navigate the new working models created from the pandemic.
How do you build deep relationships if you have a remote sales team? A hybrid sales team? Or, new members of the sales team that were hired during the pandemic?
The first step is to apply a healthy dose of reality.
The reality is that in our desire to be connected human beings are becoming more disconnected.
For example, look at a weekly group sales meeting. Salespeople join the meeting in person or over video. Regardless of the venue, there is often one thing in common: Everyone is looking down instead of up and around.
Salespeople are busy “connecting” to other departments, prospects or clients through slack, email, texts, LinkedIn and voicemail. (And I probably missed a few.)
As a result, little time is invested in “connecting” and building relationships with members of their own sales team.
In the desire to be constantly connected with everything that dings or blings, a sales team can become more disconnected BECAUSE:
- No one joins the group sales meeting early to engage in small talk, friendly banter or relationship building. They have messages to return! As a result, friendships and relationships are not created or deepened.
- There might be lower eye contact during the meeting because participants are looking down or around for fear of missing the latest slack, email or text message. No eye contact, no rapport, no relationship building.
- The sales team pays partial attention to information or questions shared by their peers because they are distracted and not fully present. They can’t or don’t fully engage in conversations because they’ve missed half the conversation! Partial attention never leads to deeper relationships.
When a sales leader models or allows this type of behavior, they slowly build a disconnected sales culture.
Relationships slowly erode between members of the sales team.
Salespeople don’t feel like they are part of a “sales village” because they don’t know have a relationship with their peers.
As a result, salespeople find it easy to leave your company. Why? Because they are leaving a job, not a sales community full of friends and relationships.
Sales managers: Model and set expectations to create strong sales communities.
At your next group sales meeting, send out an agenda that sets the tone for building relationships. ASK your sales team to:
- Show up five minutes early to the meeting to engage in fun and small talk. Send out a question that ignites relationship building conversation such as, “Who had the most fun this weekend and why? What are your hobbies outside of work? Who would you like to thank at the company this week and why?”
- Power down their technology. Willpower is overrated so eliminate distractions. Create an environment where your sales team can focus on what’s most important: Building relationships with their colleagues.
- Share an area where they need help. Ask for volunteers to invest time (relationship building) with this person to brainstorm ideas on this problem or challenge.
- Share a success story. Embrace the power of celebrating as a team.
- Avoid scheduling their next appointment RIGHT at the end of the sales meeting. Hurry is the enemy of building deep relationships. Encourage your team to be fully present throughout the ENTIRE meeting. Remind them that a fifteen-minute break between the group sales meeting and next appointment will not affect their ability to achieve quota.
It's the relationship stupid! Salespeople are human beings and all human beings need, want and value relationships.