January 22, 2020

Building successful relationships

Getting past the first point of contact can be one of the more challenging aspects of establishing a business relationship. In order to reach the point of building that relationship, we must first understand who plays the role of the “gatekeeper.”

This role can be held by a variety of different people, including secretaries or receptionists, office managers, employees, and many others. They are the “first line of defense” in getting to the decision makers of the company. They serve this role in both a literal and figurative sense.

The first step in the process of building a new business relationship is to be prepared. Take time to research the business online. You can find a wealth of pertinent information on a company’s website or social media channels, which often include contact information and staff directories that will inform you of the key contacts you’re seeking.

Next, make a phone call to schedule an appointment. Introduce yourself, the company, and the manufacturer you represent and explain the reason behind your call. Include information about your products and how they benefit customers. In short, this should be your “elevator speech.”

Use this opportunity to request an appointment with the decision maker of the company. Schedule your appointment for a specific time (i.e. Wednesday at 2pm) or a general time (Thursday afternoon).

It’s imperative to always be prepared, punctual, and professional. Take time to practice your speech. This allows you to speak with comfort, confidence, and authenticity. Respect is also of the utmost importance. By treating everyone you encounter with dignity, you leave a lasting and positive impression.

Remember that building trust with customers takes time. Bear in mind that the odds of selling something on a cold call are 1 percent. Roughly 81 percent of business is earned following the fifth call with the decision maker. Consistency is key.

When driving a demonstration vehicle (sometimes known as a “demonstrator”), an initial phone call to set up an appointment isn’t always feasible. In this instance, it’s important the vehicle is fully prepared for presentation upon leaving the dealership. Assure that everything is functional and operational before your demonstration. Again, include an introductory speech that addresses who you are, the company you work for, and the product you’re presenting. In the process of this interaction, reference others within the industry that are utilizing the same products and how they have benefited from its use.

Always thank those you presented to for their time and consideration. Additionally, follow up with your key contacts within a few days. Again, remember that a majority of business is earned after the fifth call or point of contact.

In the event you are unable to obtain or establish a connection with the business, there are still ways to accomplish your goal. If you see company vehicles in the area (such as on a job site, stopping at a convenience store, etc.), take a moment to introduce yourself to those driving. Often, drivers will share company contact information, especially after you compliment their work vehicle. This is merely one avenue to pursue if you find your initial efforts unsuccessful. There are also a number of additional resources available online that will aid you in finding success with getting past the gatekeeper.

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