As a former basketball coach, even my best teams had games where we tripped over the end line stepping onto the court. These were always followed with several practices where we focused on the “fundamentals” and got back to the basics of what made us good in the first place.

The same holds true in the sales game. Every good salesperson already knows the fundamentals, but they, too, need to be reminded of the basics from time to time.

My past experiences selling and managing salespeople demonstrated time and again that establishing a relationship with the customer produces the most satisfying and longest term success. This is the most fundamental aspect of effective selling. That’s because people buy products from people they like.

Earlier this year, I attended the National Farm Machinery Show. It was the 22nd straight year I’ve attended the Louisville exhibition. What’s become increasingly obvious is today a lot of good companies are offering a lot of good products. That being the case, I assume your dealership is handling good equipment. So what sets your dealership, apart from others that handle good equipment?

Without a doubt, it’s your relationship with your customer.

Relationships are established by listening. This is the single most important talent of a good salesperson. Unfortunately, as Andy Rooney pointed out on more than one occasion, “People don’t listen much anymore.”

We’ve all been around salespeople where you need to raise your hand to get a word in “edgewise,” as my dad used to say. If you’re like me, you tend to avoid these guys.

It’s a two-step process. The best salespeople first get customers to talk about themselves. It’s not difficult because most of us love to talk about ourselves. Then — they listen.

Listening will tell them what the customers know and what they don’t know. It tells you what they want and what they don’t want. It tells you what they need and what they don’t need. It will reveal what’s really important to them on a particular purchase and about their price points. It will also tell you what else they could use to accomplish what they want to accomplish. Listening will make you a valued resource for them as you educate them about what they don’t know and need to know.

Dealer Takeaways
  • Build a strong “relationship” with the customer or potential customer that transcends a single sale, as there will be many more if you are successful with this step.
  • “Explain” your product and its offerings.
  • “Ask” for their business.

A friend of mine, Mike Turley, CEO Osborn-Barr, a marketing firm that specializes in agricultural markets, has long been an advocate of taking the time to teach the rural lifestyler. He believes most buyers in rural lifestyle markets know little about the things most of us in the industry take for granted. For example, what’s a PTO? What’s the difference between a two-stage clutch and an IPTO? What is a differential lock?

You can bet they’re not where they should be when it comes to safety issues such as not driving with the loader bucket high in the air. For many of these types of customers, this is all new and can be intimidating. By listening closely and responding politely to their questions, you put them at ease. Spending their hard earned money is stressful enough, but to spend it with a dealership that treats them like a “City Slicker” doesn’t lay the foundation for a long-term relationship.

Only after you’ve established the “relationship,” move on to features and benefits. Too many salespeople use this traditional approach as the first step in the sales process. It only works with price buyers. For most customers though, research has shown that price is down the list of reasons of why they buy from certain retailers. At the same time, the good salesperson doesn’t forget another fundamental of selling. As a former boss used to remind me as a young salesman, “At some point, some money needs to change hands.” But it’s always a good thing when the customer feels good about it.