Stay in the game with BIPS
How do you steer a conversation when you really want to connect with a person and form a meaningful business or personal relationship? Focusing on what the other person loves can lead to lively dialogue, which can lead to rapport- and relationship-building. Usually what the other person loves has little to do with their business challenge or your product "solution" - it is more likely to be about their family, friends and other personal interests.The customers, associates and suppliers with whom you do business are people, after all, but if your experience leaves you skeptical, read on.There is certainly a time and place for focused selling and even hard-nosed negotiation, but you'll probably be absent from that table if you haven't first developed an authentic relationship with your prospective customer.I hereby coin the acronym "BIPS": Business is people, stupid!Forget this little axiom at the risk of losing business to a competitor who quietly cultivates real relationships with your customers.In the course of conversation at a recent networking event, the discussion turned to the story of an insurance agent practically obsessed with people's birthdays. He carried an old-fashioned little black book filled with all his contacts' birthdays and notes about their families, hobbies, etc. In more than 20 years in business, he never once missed a birthday wish for any of his hundreds of contacts.The personal approachOne of the agent's wealthiest prospects, planning an opulent wedding for his daughter, was narrowing down the very exclusive guest list - wanting to keep it strictly immediate family and close friends. He excluded many of his closest business associates but invited this one insurance salesman because, after 20 years of birthday and other well wishes for the prospect and his loved ones, he was considered "part of the family."Never once did the insurance agent try to sell or close business during all those years and he was eventually invited by the prospect for a coverage review; naturally he won the man's business. Again, there's a time and a place to ask for a prospect's business. The client, not you or your sales team, decides when and where that is, but do be aware of the buying signals and never hesitate to ask when that time comes!Clearly a salesperson's job is to reach out to potential new customers proactively and the best way to do that is to create and build an attraction, not push a product or service.Perhaps there's some urgency in your revenue projections. Maybe you really need to make more sales and think your reps should use more aggressive selling tactics. Go ahead and fight human nature all you want. You might force a few sales through the pipeline while the competition is winning the big contracts in a walk by talking about what really matters to your prospects: their personal interests and concerns.People love to share their passions and interests with those who are genuinely interested; moms and dads do this; grandparents do this; CEOs and other decision-makers do this; and you do this.A personal approach requires patience, but as you continually practice it, you'll cultivate valuable friendships and be in the game for keeps!Chuck Sink is a sales director at the Manchester marketing firm of wedü Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.