I’ve been in sales and business development a long time. I’ve found that while the bottom line in sales is to deliver a product or service that fulfills a need, the key to success is the ability to forge a trusting relationship with your client or prospect. To that end, I am going to talk about my background, principles and concepts that have worked for me in my career. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all Zig Ziglar here.)

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. My father was an insurance salesman, as was my grandfather. My Dad was affable, outgoing and possessed a good sense of humor. Back in the day, he did business with a handshake, and trust was huge. That’s the way my Dad and Granddad conducted business, and I think some of that Midwest sensibility and genuineness rubbed off on me.

I’ve carried on many of my father and grandfather’s personal traits and they’ve proved invaluable in building business relationships. I want to offer up these insights on my methodology and help others develop or reflect upon their own approach.


6-Traits-of-Relationship-Development-Rapport    ESTABLISH RAPPORT

Nobody wants to feel like they’re being sold to as soon as a meeting starts. I don’t go in to a meeting, whether it’s a new or existing relationship, and start expounding on what a prospect needs to know about me and our agency.  I like to break the ice and have a little informal banter before getting down to business.

Discussing things that are seemingly mundane—like weather, sports, how long they’ve lived or worked in the area, their experience in advertising or business—can actually be an opportunity to find something in common. You can take a genuine approach to showing that person that you are grounded, experienced, and have developed personal values and practices that have made you successful.


6-Traits-of-Relationship-Development-Likable    BE LIKABLE

Be genuine. Trying to be likable at the sake of compromising your principles is not good. I once had a supervisor tell me, “You know, it doesn’t matter one bit that the prospect or client likes you; it has no bearing on whether they do business with you or not.” Well, I disagree. In my experience, if a prospect doesn’t like you, the chances of them wanting to do business with you are greatly diminished. It’s important to be yourself and stand for what’s right.


6-Traits-of-Relationship-Development-Trustworthy    BE TRUSTWORTHY

It’s critical to instill trust in your business relationships.  Your prospect or client needs to know that you have their best interest in mind and they have a seat at the table through you.  It’s important that they are confident knowing you’re not trying to sell them something that they might not need, and that what you say is true.

Being honest in the upfront helps instill trust. On many occasions I have had clients reach out to me with a request and I have had to politely decline. Often, it was because their budget wasn’t adequate for the desired coverage, and the end result would have been an ROI that was too low. In these cases, I have recommended another option or format they hadn’t considered because it delivered better results.


6-Traits-of-Relationship-Development-Consultative    BE CONSULTATIVE

A great approach to any sales meeting is coming at it from a consultative point of view.  Ask them what is working for them and what is not.  Ask them what their pain points are and what keeps them up at night.  Listen to their responses and be creative in coming up with ideas that can solve their problems.  Being consultative brings so much more value to the table and sets you apart from transactional salespeople.

It’s so important to approach clients from a strategic standpoint. Delivery of a quality strategic recommendation doesn’t mean churning out exactly what they ask. It requires digging in and understanding what the end goal is with the planned campaign. Time spent analyzing the landscape and brainstorming internally will return unique branding solutions for prospects. This difference is what sets successful agencies apart from other competitors that just want a signed contract.


6-Traits-of-Relationship-Development-Proactive    BE PROACTIVE WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

Let’s face it, there will be times when things don’t always go as planned. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to Out of Home advertising, and inevitably you’re going to have to address a hiccup with a client.

When a problem arises, pull your internal team together to come up with a solution or solutions and be quick to contact your client. You must address the bad news and, just as important, follow it up with the potential fix. If something goes wrong a client doesn’t really care about why it happened, but they are expecting you to make it better. And, by all means, be empathetic when you make that call—they have to know that you care as much as they do about finding a solution.


6-Traits-of-Relationship-Development-Sincerity    BE SINCERE

A lack of sincerity is so blatantly obvious, particularly in sales. Sincerity allows all the points above to be done honestly and to the best of my ability. I can build rapport and trust by having conversations that I earnestly care about. By consulting with my clients they know that any recommendations I deliver will sincerely help them. That I’m not just after the biggest possible profit. I can empathize with my clients when issues arise and deliver a solution alongside bad news. Sincerity is tangible and a quality clients want in an account representative.


I’m proud that I work for a company that mirrors my business development philosophies.  Our team values client relationships and will go the extra mile for them. In fact, more than 70% of our top 50 clients have worked with us for more than five years. We’re proud of that statistic as it truly demonstrates how we value our clients. It shows that we hold those relationships in the highest regard. If you’re looking for a solution in OOH and a partner who can get you there, you’ve come to the right place.


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