Be a farmer to be a hunter -- Relationship management

Hunters and farmers.  Most sales folks would tend to consider themselves one or the other.  However, Brian Carroll, lead generation expert, contends a sales person needs to be a good farmer in order to be a good hunter too.

In a recent article in his B2B Lead Generation Blog, Brian discussed what he believes is the best way to reach out and form relationships with customers.  And I agree with his thoughts.

Time and time again it is proven that customers want the salespeople they deal with to understand their business, their needs, and the pressures under which they operate. These people are called trusted advisors.

For this reason, I think its critical to contact and have initial conversations with our future customers that are devoid of sales pitches. Quite literally when we begin a conversation with them, their attitudes and beliefs are being shaped, primed by the information they have already soaked up through various sources.

Be a resource to them regardless of their timing to buy. Otherwise, they are likely to get information from the Internet or uninformed colleagues, trade publications or heaven forbid your competitors.

I'd consolidate what Brian wrote down to two key words -- Information and influence.

How do you gain the understanding to which Brian points?  Two-way conversation. That means you have to listen to your customers as much or more than you talky talk.

There are lots of ways to listen.  Some of them involve direct, face-to-face interaction and some of them are more indirect like peeking into group forums sponsored by your company -- or even your competitors.

To become a trusted advisor, you also have to be willing to tell customers the truth, even if that means telling them they don't need your services or products right now.  Or if it means telling them they aren't ready to commit to the resources needed to be successful with your services or products.

One other thing.  In the most effective companies, it isn't just the sales or account management folks who act as the company farmers.  All your employees, and especially the ones interacting directly with customers, need to be empowered to carry a hoe. 

That's my high-level thoughts on farming.  Now I'd like to hear yours.  Whether you're the customer or the person driving the sales, what works and doesn't work for you in building relationships?