The buyer-seller relationship is somewhat of a mystery. In the context of B2B sales, there seems to be some confusion between the word 'relationship' and 'friendship'. To further explore this, I reached out to a successful salesperson in an industry which this confusion is quite obvious - the oilfield.
Just yesterday, I had a great conversation with Mr. Gerald Broussard, Director of Sales for National Oilwell Varco (NOV). NOV is an American multinational corporation in the oilfield services and equipment industry and resides in Houston, Texas. Gerald and I talked for nearly an hour, during which we discussed what buyer-seller relationships look like in the oilfield industry. Gerald or "Big G" explained that the common belief in oilfield sales is that closing deals is 'all about relationships.' Gerald said, "This is a very political industry - lots of times it boils down to what you know and who you know." This statement threw me a bit. Gerald's primary background is in collegiate football coaching... what or who did he know when he started working in oilfield sales? How did he climb to the top, even though he didn't follow the beaten path?
After asking Gerald a few more questions, it became obvious to me why he was so successful. Gerald truly understands the difference between a buyer-seller 'relationship' and a 'friendship.' In his business, Gerald's primary focuses is on building a business relationship with his customers by providing them with value, service and consultation. He knows that if those things are present and he remains persistent, a 'relationship' is bound to happen. "Lots of guys in my field think that if they spend time with their customers, the deals will come. So they take the customers to the game, to the hunting lodge, to the steakhouse, etc. Me, I focus on solving problems in my customer's business first. Do that a few times and the other things will naturally fall into place."
Gerald went on to say that the only thing a salesperson can guarantee a customer, is his / her attention and time. Gerald is extremely generous with his time. "I'd rather see someone face-to-face and give them my full attention instead of talking over the phone, even if that means driving to Houston for a 15 minute visit." Simply put, Gerald believes in becoming a business partner, not a 'business podna' (podna is Cajun slang meaning friend or pal).
So what are some things customers look for in a sales rep? What attributes of a sales rep expedite the building of a solid buyer-seller relationship?
Seven attributes that have the highest positive impact on customer loyalty:
What's important when customers choose their vendors?
Hierarchy of customer wants:
1. Substantiated value
2. Solutions, not products and services
3. Outsourcing everything except core competencies
Factors predicting world-class sales status (from customers' perspective):
1. Rep personally manages my satisfaction
2. Rep understands our business
3. Rep is a customer advocate (be on our side)
4. Rep is knowledgeable of applications (bring us applications)
5. Rep is easily accessible
6. Rep solves our problems
7. Rep is innovative in response to our needs
(Achieving Sales Excellence by Stevens and Kini, 2007)
Reece Theriot, MBA
“We were put on this Earth to love; by loving, we serve others; by serving others, we create value; by creating value, we form successful ventures; by forming successful ventures we contribute to the advancement of Creation which pleases the Creator.”