Do you know why people don’t like salespeople? 

It isn’t because they aren’t nice people. It isn’t because they are being unprofessional, or call us from a 1-800 number in Indonesia (although, really?).

The reason we hate salespeople is because we don’t have any kind of personal relationship with them. That’s right. Our dislike isn’t of the person itself, but is because our most primal human instinct is to know and trust people in our tribe. 

When we aren’t doing business with people in our tribe, people who have similar values to us, who we know, trust and value, then we think of that email, drop in or phone call from a stranger as well, a nasty intrusion.

It shocks me that so many companies think that cold calls and outsourcing sales to foreign companies is good business strategy. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

Business relationships today (and really since the beginning of time), have been formed by connecting with people. When you have a great connection with someone who you value, it’s much more comfortable to share information, to meet over a beer, to chat about your business. It is the foundation of a great brand. 

I’ve got news for you, you aren’t losing a sale over price, nor are you losing a sale from a lack of pop-up ads on your website (don’t even get me started on this topic). The reason you lose customers is because you haven’t spent any time or energy on cultivating value-based relationships.

The vicious numbers game.

Time and time again, I come across companies who don’t want to think outside the box about how things are fundamentally done within their company. They want to drive results, but they won’t assess their own internal structure to allow their people the time or resources to cultivate relationships that are built on value, rather than on by-the-book business practices. 

And you know why they have this mentality? It’s because companies today are obsessed with numbers. How many followers can you get me? What percentage of mobile traffic do I have? How many incoming leads can I get? Show me a measurable ROI. Bleh. I have news for you—companies aren’t driven by statistics, they are driven by people. 

We need to shift our thinking. Savvy businesses need to put value-based relationships first, and the numbers will follow. I’m not saying that the numbers don’t matter, merely that the numbers will be much easier to achieve if you focus on creating value-based relationships.

It’s not a free lunch.

Business relationships are not just about being friendly and racking up your LinkedIn followers. Being a nice, popular guy and taking people for lunch is not in itself a successful strategy. 

To achieve real success from a business relationship, it must offer value. If you are able to challenge customers, put forth ideas, and create solutions you are creating a dynamic in which people trust, rely on, and want to do business with you.

Relationships are solidified when you are able to solve problems and create opportunities the customer hadn’t realized even existed. Businesses that are able to leverage this important idea are the ones who are going to be able to forge lasting, valuable relationships that result in repeat business.

If someone values your expertise they will not just choose to hire you, but they will also send you referrals and become advocates for your business. That my friends, is a super powerful connection that can’t be made when you are only focusing on the quantity of proposals or being the lowest bid. 

I know what you’re thinking, but how can you do this? Well, if you’re willing to bring out your inner rebel and do things differently, here are five things you can do right now that will help you create value-based relationships.

1. Show genuine interest in their business.

Before you meet with someone, take the time to research their company. Yah, stalk them a little. Find out what they do, who they are, what they’ve presented on social media. Delve into getting to know their business as if it was your own. 

Having a genuine interest and passion for their company shows that you don’t just care about making the sale, it shows that you genuinely care about creating results. 

2. Seek out people who share your values.

Let me throw this crazy idea out there. Maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t sell to everyone. If someone doesn’t share your principles, ethics or high standards, they are going to be a nightmare to work with. They will never see eye-to-eye with you. 

The strongest business relationships you will forge are the ones that are formed with other like-minded individuals who value what you bring to the table. Let the others go buy elsewhere. Trust me on this, I’ve learned the hard way.

3. Fly your expertise flag.

People hire you because they want expertise in an area you specialize in, not because they need another coffee mug. Relationships aren’t built by giving out cool swag or offering hockey tickets and free lunches, they are built by offering relevant expertise in an area that someone else needs help in. 

Share those valuable lessons and pass on expert advice to your customers. If you can prove you know something that will help their business, you will elevate yourself to a valuable partner rather than simply a swag-giver-outer.

4. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.

Just because they’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way. Come to the table with new ideas, like a way to make money or save money, or new opportunities and viewpoints the customer hadn’t realized even existed. 

Saying yes to the same old thing isn’t going to gain you any value points, it’s only going to set you up to be the guy that everyone knows doesn’t have an opinion. See the expert point, above. 

5. Find what makes you different.

Yes, you have competitors. Some will outbid you, some will have more salespeople than you, some will have better products than you, and some will have way more swag than you. But, what they don’t have is what makes you authentically you. 

Take time to discover what your unique thing is, and then spread the word loudly and proudly with all your employees. Do you have a process no one else has, do you have a stronger team, or deeper knowledge of the industry? Customers will want to form relationships if they understand why you are different than the guy down the street. Show them how you can solve pain points that others can’t.

Now what?

The old adage that “People do business with people they like,” still holds true. But the cold-hearted truth is that just because they like you, doesn’t mean they will choose you over a competitor. 

What the saying really should be is: “People do business with people they like, AND who add value to their business.” 

Value-based relationships are the magic, unmeasurable, people-based equation that’s been missing from your company. So what do you say? Are you willing to invest the time and energy to nurture these types of relationships, or do you want to continue to invest in free lunches, statistics and numbers. The answer lies with you. 

Sherry Jacobi