Focus on Sales: The 3 People (Besides Your Client) You Absolutely Must Build Relationships With

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In part 3 of Focus on Sales, we’re going to look at another one of our foolproof tips to be a great salesperson: Tip 24 Broadening your relationships within existing client companies. We’ll look at the three most important people to maintain a relationship with, besides your primary client, as well as how to throw your net wider in the company.

The Unexpected Breakup

It’s happened to every salesperson on earth – the sudden, unexpected loss of a client because of a relationship breakup. Sound melodramatic? Think about it: you spent weeks, even months, wooing the prospect until they tentatively tried out your product or service and were satisfied. You refused to let it lie, though – you dazzled them with impeccable after-sales service; you sent them a personalized thank you card after their first order and a small, tasteful gift for their birthday; you knew the names of their children and shared a few slightly flirtatious but always totally above-board moments with them.
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Then, without warning, they stopped responding to your emails. The messages you left on their voice-mail weren’t returned. You finally got hold of the receptionist who told you, “I’m sorry, Kelly’s left the company. Can someone else help you?” No, you replied, feeling coldness in the pit of your stomach; I don’t know who else can help me… You hung up, knowing one of your best sources of repeat sales just dried up and they were fair game for any salesperson who could find out the name of the company’s new Kelly first.

The Importance of Multiple Relationships

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People come and go in companies – it’s a simple, straightforward fact. Even the best employers out there lose staff from time to time, whether it’s to more money, fewer hours, a fancier-sounding title or just plain boredom. Every time an employee leaves, there are shake-ups in relationships, both internally and with suppliers. Even if the company is a dedicated user of your product, their new Kelly is unlikely to care much about who takes their order, and if they don’t know you personally, they’ll place the order with whoever picks up the phone.


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On the other hand, if you happen to have a strong network of relationships in the company, their loss of Kelly doesn’t need to be your loss of business. It’s just a matter of knowing the right people to make sure your transition to a life without Kelly is as smooth as possible.

*On a side note, maintaining a relationship with your Kelly can also help expand your client base when they move companies. If you get their new contact info, you could have a foot in the door at their new employer!

The Three People You Should be in a Relationship With

Except in pretty extreme cases, it’s rare for multiple staff to stage a mass exodus from a company – and if they do, it might behoove you to find out why, but that’s a topic for discussion at a later stage. It’s not necessary for you to know every single person at every single client company (although, if you can pull it off – well, you probably don’t need to read the rest of this article). Target these three people to help keep the orders coming to you.

The Boss

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Every Kelly has a boss, and you should get to know them. They more than likely have final sign-off on all orders, so whatever service goes for Kelly should go for them. Sending holiday greeting cards? Make sure to include the boss. Selecting birthday gifts? Don’t forget to get one for them. You don’t need to get carried away and get them significantly more expensive gifts – although it might be a good idea to not get everyone identical gifts – or bow and scrape for them, but don’t ignore them, either.

Make a point of occasionally setting up an appointment that includes them, greet them each time you visit and ensure they receive all the most important updates about your product. When the time comes for them to appoint a new Kelly, they’ll be only too happy to give them your contact info and tell them, this is our person, they know us, use them.

The Subordinate and the Coworker

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If Kelly has a subordinate, this is another very important relationship to foster. There is not only a really good chance that they will take over when Kelly leaves, but even if they don’t, they will be the person showing the new Kelly the ropes – including handing over all the supplier info, and that means you.

If, however, Kelly is one of a team of people who do the same job or share responsibilities within a department, you will need to either kindle relationships with pretty much everyone in a small department of up to five people, or you will need to have a serious conversation with Kelly to find out which of their colleagues you need to get to know, just in case they’re not in, on vacation, and so on.

*Another side note: don’t tell Kelly you want to know these people just in case they up and leave. All that’s going to do is make you seem mercenary, and you’re trying to build a relationship here!

The Assistant

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If Kelly’s boss has a personal assistant, or if there is an assistant or secretary shared by the department, this is a critical person to know. They are frequently the gatekeeper, the holder of the diary and the redirector of the phone call. They are also the first person the new Kelly is going to ask for help from, and more than likely the one person who knows exactly what is happening in the department at all times – this is not because, as is popularly believed, all assistants are gossips, it’s because it’s their job to know; it’s right there is their job title: they assist, and that means knowing everything.

If the boss or department is sadly lacking an assistant, the alternative person to get to know is the company receptionist. While they may not have decision-making powers, they – as with the assistant – are paid to know what’s happening in the company, who is coming, going, starting, leaving, changing departments, getting a promotion and getting all kinds of new responsibilities. By being on first-name terms with the receptionist, you will be the first to know that Kelly is on their merry way and that the best person for you to speak to for now will probably be Sammy. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that, even if the department does have an assistant, get to know the receptionist anyway. They are going to be an invaluable font of information when you need it.

Honorable Mention – the money people

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Not all salespeople work for major companies with teams of bookkeepers and accountants who can deal with processing invoices and collecting all the money from your sales. Some of you – particularly entrepreneurs – may be a one-person show, doing all the selling, producing, serving, delivering and money collecting by yourself. If this is the case, cultivate a relationship with at least two of your client’s money people. If Jodi goes on vacation right around the time when you’re submitting your invoices, you don’t want to be waiting for them to get back before your email gets read.  

Each of these three people should receive equal treatment from you. Never, ever condescend to one while sucking up to another – it goes down badly with both of them and will give you a reputation for being inconsistent. Friendly, professional and approachable should be your mantra when it comes to individuals within a client company.

Casting a Wide Net

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Depending on the size and nature of the company, and, of course, what product or service you offer, there may be more than one department that could use you, or who could be ultimately responsible for sign-off. Hopefully, you will have done your research as per Tip 2 Prepare, prepare, prepare, but if that didn’t turn up enough information, don’t be afraid to ask.

This is where the assistant and the receptionist are going to be really valuable to you on a day-to-day basis. They are the people who will know who is Kelly’s equivalent in various other departments, whether the rest of the company even has other departments that could use your services, and – most importantly – what their names, phone numbers and email addresses are.

In the next Focus on Sales, we’re going to talk about Tip 38 Get clients to come to you. Don’t forget to let us know in the comments if there are any other specific points from 45 Foolproof Tips That Will Make You a Better Salesperson Overnight that you would like us to go into in more depth.

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