What is the best way to build up a relationship when you are a new inexperienced account executive in your first job out of university? The answer is unfortunately that there isn’t an ‘easy’ way but rather two schools of thought in the sales industry that are both equally useful tools, but need to be used with the correct clients.
I’ll explain what both schools ‘are’ and give an example of how I’ve used them in the past, and try to come to an simple conclusion in the end.
The first type of sale is what I like to call the ‘relationship building’ method and is quite simply getting people to like you so that they buy from you. This school believes that buying is an emotional decision, that buyers are willing to buy from you based on you as a person rather than the product. I used to assume that the weakness in this strategy was that the media buyer would eventually have to report back on what they’ve bought and not be in a job for very long because they’ve spent their entire budget on who they ‘like’ most rather than what they had to do. However THIS article here by Anthony Innarino, describes how you need to influence how the buyers rationalise their purchases. You need to make them put your product top, based on the ‘A’ column, that you’ve decided on/sell best with. It’s a great article and also a very good blog to read if you want to find some great training on being a sales manager. The idea being that if the person likes you enough, then they will find a way to put you in the ‘A’ column .
The benefits of this school are very obvious, people like you and therefore people buy from you as long as you’re a likeable person, you’ll carry on selling stuff. The negatives is that this kind of relationship needs a large amount of time to build and as a young ‘account executive, you are expected to go away and bring in the new money. You don’t have the time to ‘build’ up any relationships because you need to prove yourself quickly so that you can get onto the bigger accounts. Another issue is that mis-judging the line between ‘good relationship’ and ‘being messed around’ then you’ll quite simply fail and end up with your trousers down. It seems like such a simple line not to cross but you’d be surprised how easy it is to fall for that old trick.
A personal example of this was when I thought I had a particularly good relationship with a client, we used the term ‘mate’ in emails and he assured me that he liked my general chit chat and was certain to buy from me. He never did. He was the decision maker, had the sign off and was spending money but kept putting me off until another day. I take none of it personally because he is very good at what he does and it is the job of a media buyer to put you off your stride. However as a young account executive, roughly 3 months into the job, I had such high dreams that he couldn’t be lying to me, he must mean what his saying. The simple truth was that he was never going to buy from me and that I should have dropped spending time on him rather than others.
The second school is a ‘hard ball’ sales approach, which I could explain but I think the explanation from Glengarry Glen explains it better than I ever could. The central idea is that you need to be more aggressive with the prospective client/customer and doing anything other than ‘closing’ is a waste of time. This approach is the uglier side of sales that people assume is always the case and it really isn’t as bad as some people think. I personally find it a bit of an adrenaline rush and quite effective to get a quick deal in now and again. It certainly requires allot of confidence and quite a few times to practice it on a few deals that you know are not going to come in. The advantage is that you get the deal in when you need it to come in, you essentially get exactly what you want and as a sales person that is an awesome feeling. The downside is that it can be pretty soul destroying to do this everyday considering that the success rate will be quite low. I have a large amount of energy for my working day but I can’t make an endless amount of those types of calls. I’m sure other tele-marketers can but I personally find it a bit soul destroying. It also doesn’t breed repeat business, people don’t like repeatedly being talked to in that way, which in some industries is just what’s going to happen. I’m told that outdoor advertising is one of these industries but I’m not 100% sure if this is true or if there are any others.
The end result is that both have a place with clients, and within certain industries, it depends how many people you’ve got to pick from when it comes to ‘leads’ but the way I prefer to think about it and as a very smart swedish tele-marketer once told me, the relationship works like a mobile phone credit, you do good things and then you make that call for the money. It gives me a good way to balance the hard sell with relationship building and pulling the hard sell.
My final bit of advice to new sales executives is to try both and be ready to burn. What no-one will actually tell you is that the real secret of being a good account executive is being prepared to failing and asking what you can learn from each mistake.
Try something new and tell your manager how it went, why you think you failed and ask for their feedback on either what to try next or how you could have done better.