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How to Build a Relationship with a Prospect

The first contact with a sales prospect is like a first date. You have a limited amount of time to make a personal connection and if it doesn’t work, the other person will move on to another possibility. But if it does, if the two of you really “click,” you can end up with a relationship that will benefit both of you for years to come.

In sales, you don’t want to use these words verbatim, but the concept behind them is the same. The only way to know what the other person needs, and which of those needs you can meet, is to hear it directly from them.

Open the conversation by sharing something you know about the prospect or their company. Aim to mention a problem you can help to solve or a recent growth achievement that your product or service can enhance.

As soon as possible, start asking open-ended questions. Phrase them in a way that encourages the prospect to tell you about their needs. Clarify answers by asking follow-up closed-ended questions when you need to do so.

Respond to their pain points with mentions of how you can address them, but don’t overdo it. At this phase, they should do most of the talking. You want them to walk away feeling that you’re out there thinking about how to help them.

The Personal Touch

Once you’ve had a few contact moments, the relationship becomes less like a courtship and more like a doctor-patient connection. They have a problem; you care about that problem and want to help them solve it.

Remember that you’re not the only one who can address this issue, but you can be the only one who has a genuine connection to the prospect. Capitalize on that and you’ll have a better chance of turning the prospect into a client.

“When can I see you again?”

You can’t build a relationship off of a single conversation, so you have to leave the prospect wanting to speak with you again. Sometimes a prospect will make the next contact, but if not, look for a relevant opportunity to follow up.

There are two major guidelines for follow-ups:

  1. Offer value in manageable chunks.
  2. Be in contact just enough that you stay on their radar.

On your first call and probably your second, write down the pain points that your client needs to address. Touch on one of those at your first follow-up, maybe by sending the link to a case study or white paper. Let the prospect’s response gauge when and how you follow up next, but don’t disappear even if you don’t get a response.

If you come out with a new product, service, or update, and you think it would address the prospect’s issues, get in touch. If you learn that the prospect reached a milestone or is having a hard time, offer congratulations or offers to help.

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