How to Build Digital Relationships in the Social Media Age *

How to Build Digital Relationships in the Social Media Age *

A Sales Relationship Used to Begin With a Smile and Handshake

Two components of reliable relationship building in sales used to be a smile and a handshake.  Things have certainly changed in the digital world. So many of today’s interactions take place without any actual human interaction.

In the digital age we seldom have the luxury of yesterday’s face-to-face meetings.  Is there any way to recreate that sense of closeness and familiarity?  This provides a unique dilemma for small- to mid-sized business owners (SMBs).  And, the stakes and risks for business owners have never been higher.


Why Sophisticated Prospecting is Critical to Your SMB’s Survival


Your audience has to picture you as a trusted and responsive partner.  This is one of the main advantages that an SMB must build upon when compared to a larger business competitor.  

Developing strong business relationships yields upsells, cross-sells, and referrals.  All of which help lead to strong growth for a business.  The first challenge is the most important hurdle to defeat.  If your business doesn’t make the best first impression, how can you hope to build trust in your business?

Today the vast majority of decision makers say they never respond to cold outreach.  How can you warm up your introductions as a vital aspect of your sales prospecting?  Spammy prospecting has poor results and is damaging to your SMB’s reputation.  Word quickly spreads if your business is guilty of filling inboxes with irrelevant product messaging.

It’s preferable and much more productive if you use a warm introduction.  Doing this has the potential for a positive response rate in the 15-18% range.  However, the big question remains.  How can you effectively pursue this objective?

How can you in the “post-handshake era” build the types of meaningful relationships that grow your business?   Let’s take a look at three of my favorite techniques.


Embrace 3 Techniques for Successful B2B Prospecting


Salespeople are wise to position themselves by following the social contract, developing emotional connections, and creating constructive tension.  Let’s examine each of these three relationship-building tenets more closely.


You Have to Give Before You Get a Return


Receiving an introduction through a mutual connection is the most effective way to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t personally know.  Doing this gives both parties a sense of recognition and credibility.  It’s important to remember that asking for an introduction is asking for a favor.

You have to look at it from the referrer’s perspective.  That favor may affect their reputation which we all work hard to maintain.  They have to feel confident that your interaction with the contacting question will be a positive one.  You should also consider positive ways that you can assist that referrer in return for their assistance.

The transactional principle of this type of social contract is present in so many things that happen in our lives.  It applies to everything from back-scratches to business.  As we go through life we have to build trust with others before we see it returned to us. 

After contacting a new prospect, it’s important for you to deliver value upfront.  Here again you are asking for a favor.  Even if you are simply asking someone to take the time to listen to you.  Begin by pointing them toward something of value.  This might be custom content or a valuable third-party resource they might find helpful. This promotes your new relationship as a helpful partner, rather than a pushy salesperson.


You Have to Make an Emotional Connection First


I think that most people understand the big role emotions play in our life choices.  We make our decisions emotionally and justify them rationally.  Surprisingly, emotions also play a major role in our B2B purchasing decisions.

It’s important to consider the role emotions play in decision making and act accordingly.  You have to use your personality and tap into your feelings as well as the feelings of your sales targets.  One could argue that in business, emotions matter even more.

Your have to use stories and conversations that cause your audience to react genuinely.  Go beyond the dry facts and numbers to create a deep connection.  But you need to do so authentically.  Highlight shared experiences and interests that connect you with others.

This doesn’t mean that you should just add drama or humor into your approach.  You have to be focused and authentic.  What are your prospects real interests?  You need to understand how their failures and successes have affected them.  Why have they succeeded?  What are the failures that they fear?

You have to become the advocate with understanding in these particular areas of interest to them.  Understanding and advocating about how these align with your business is particularly important.


How Strong Constructive Tension Cements Your B2B Relationship


What is the most difficult part of driving your sales dialogue to a successful conclusion?  It’s motivating your prospect to make a decision positive to your business goals.  How do you move someone from “I’ll think about it” to “I’ll act on it” without coming across as pestering?  How can you promote your goals without forcing a false sense of urgency?  The answer often lies in developing constructive tension.

One technique is to build an empathetic narrative driven by and anchored in numbers.  This gives you the opportunity to illustrate the risks and negative impact if they fail to take action.  While backing up your point with objective data.  Doing this can strike an effective balance between emotion and logic.  Your prospect feels the weight of their possible loss while understanding how to resolve their problem.

Even if you don’t sway your potential buyer using this approach, don’t view it as a total loss.  It is often advantageous making a good impression and leaving things on a positive note.  Perhaps this individual can refer you to another opportunity.  Or they’ll remember you first once their problem elevates to a need. This is why developing healthy business relationships is everything.


The New Era of Digital Sales Requires New Solutions


You may have heard the old expression that says, “The handshake of the host affects the taste of the roast.”  In other words, that first interaction sets the tone for everything that follows. Correctly done, your warm and informed initial outreach can become the digital equivalent of a firm and hearty handshake. 

By providing value upfront to all parties, developing emotional connections, and creating constructive tension to move things forward, you’ll place yourself firmly on the path to lasting relationships with long-term rewards.


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