More than a billion people use social media to communicate with the world. They have a few to several hundred, even thousands of friends, followers and contacts. There are dozens of ways to communicate with them, all of which can be very useful. But that still doesn’t mean that you have real relationships with those people. Surprisingly and deceptively, most people think the opposite.
Sheldon: “I have a very wide circle! I have 212 friends on MySpace!”
Leonard: “Yes, and you never met one of them!”
Sheldon: “That’s the beauty of it!”
Get your favorite beverage (mine’s coffee) because I want to tell about one of the best sales guys I had ever met. Since I don’t have his permission to use his name, let’s call him “QC” for Quota Crusher. QC was a southern gentleman from Georgia. He had a nice, easy demeanor that could put anyone at ease. But don’t let that fool you. QC consistently beat his expected quota by a wide margin and won the “President’s Club” sales award every year. It seems like every sales organization has their big hitter, hey maker, grand slammer, knocks it out of the park money maker and QC was ours. The reason: Every one of his customers considered him a friend.
Then, he lost the second biggest deal of his career.
He lost it to a competitor that looked better on paper. They were a proven product, had experience in scaling up to meet the needs of this customer, and claimed a larger customer base. But they had never deployed in a cable service provider environment. This was our expertise.
QC was resilient. He was not one to let go. What was his strategy? Develop a stronger relationship. Even though he lost the deal, he invited the decision makers to dinner. He used it as an opportunity to get to know them as individuals. He only inquired about them, how they were doing, how were their families, how was life. And he would listen. The next month, he did it again. He repeated this process once a month for a year and never spoke about business or questioned how the deployment was going.
Then one day it happened. The decision makers invited him to their office for a special meeting. They revealed to QC that the deployment that was awarded to a competitor was failing miserably. There was delay after delay. The vendor’s integration efforts to date were no closer than they were at the beginning of the project and now their own careers were in major trouble. They asked him if he could guarantee that our company, products and professional services team could solve problem. If so, they would bypass the RFP process and the business would be his. He checked with the home office and got the necessary commitments from the executive staff.
By building a solid relationship, QC had won the second biggest deal of his career.
Of course, now the work really started. This was a complicated IVR/CTI integration project over eight different locations across the United Kingdom. Each location had different CRM host systems, telephony systems and IP network topologies. It was easy to see how the previous vendor was having so much trouble. Just like them, we ran into some very large obstacles. The difference? We had QC. QC and the project team worked together to manage the customer’s expectations and overcome those various obstacles. QC’s relationship made all the difference in the success of this project. The teamwork that was established allowed us to complete the project within some very compressed timescales and just in time for the holiday season.
QC kept his relationship with the decision makers even after the project was over. The result? We got additional orders for predictive dialers at each location. QC’s relationship turned his second biggest deal into the biggest deal of his career.
Let us not be fooled into thinking that all of our “friends” and “followers” are actually relationships. Relationships are established through eye contact, conversations, taking an interest in the other person, listening and yes, “wining and dining” just as QC did. With social media and so many communication channels available to us, it’s easy to forget that.
Corner Office Wisdom:
Social media is great for creating brand awareness and for collecting feedback from customers. It is not, however, a means for creating and building true relationships. You still need to have regular face-to-face contact.