When someone is trying to sell me something, I often ask myself a key question: Does this person want a long-term business relationship with me?
If they don’t, they are likely to do anything to sell me – bait-and-switch, a strong hard-sell, using the scarcity principle (e.g., if you don’t buy today, we won’t have any more), etc. It’s basically a drive-by sale.
If they want a long-term business relationship, they are more likely to focus on ensuring I’m satisfied with my initial experience, as it establishes the foundation of our relationship going forward.
Think about selling on-premise software vs. software as a service (SaaS). In the former case, you typically sell the software licenses all up-front and then hope the customer deploys them within a reasonable timeframe so they don’t have a bunch of “shelfware,” which was not uncommon when I was at Siebel Systems – the leading CRM software company at the time (ca., 2000).
In the SaaS case, the customer is essentially renting the software as a service, and the vendor’s key objective is to ensure there is adoption of the software and room to expand the number of users. Many SaaS companies have some sort of role around customer success (e.g., Customer Success Manager at Salesforce.com) given its importance to their business and revenue model.
There are various nuances in the software example, and it’s not as straightforward as it might appear, but the point is pretty clear – in general, a SaaS company has more incentive to focus on customer experience and adoption than a pure on-premise software model.
In B2B sales, a long-term relationship focus is often the case. You frequently make less margin on the first sale given the length of the initial sales cycle and the need to justify the value you can deliver. Once the customer has worked with your company and is comfortable with your value-add, the subsequent sales cycles are often quicker and require less effort.
By demonstrating that you want a long-term relationship with a prospect, you pave-the-way to creating more value for both parties – the customer can have a quicker time-to-value and expend less effort in procuring your offerings, while you expend less time, money, and energy in selling them something. The demonstration of your long-term relationship objective might include:
- Strong, up-front, and targeted discovery to customize the value you can deliver
- A collaborative sales approach that helps to facilitate the buying process and build the account relationship
- A focus on the prospect’s experience and working with them as though they were already a valued customer
Net-net, depending on how you want your prospects and customers to answer the key question posed above, sell to them accordingly.