The bottom line is this: If you don’t master sales, your business will fail. So we expect our salespeople to be masterful relationship-builders. After all, people prefer to work with and pay someone they genuinely like.…
When you work in client services like we do at HarpData, your success depends on your ability to build strong, trusting, genuine relationships.
The formula we use is simple and clear: Relationships over EVERYTHING.
Not just with clients — with everyone you interact and work with, both internally and externally. There should be no difference. You don’t have to turn “it” off and on if you’re always consistently you.
Building relationships among everyone on your team is great for culture, productivity, and employee happiness.
Here are some of the ways we approach building relationships at my company:
- Teamwide meetings. We conduct these regularly (quarterly, ideally) to promote healthy company culture and open communication. Executives, managers, and I discuss everything that matters, from new policies to team member birthdays, wedding announcements, etc. During these meetings, the floor is open—we encourage team members to chime in with their own thoughts and opinions. While it’s not always easy to get everyone together in one room at the same time, it’s always worth it.
- Direct communication from leadership. As the president and CEO, I make it a point to personally address my team to discuss both successes and where we fall short of the standard. It’s important for people to hear from me directly, and often — I want everyone to feel like they’re aware of the decisions and moves that the company is making. This helps me gauge morale, stay on top of company culture, and keeps my message from getting lost in translation.
- Conducting meetings routinely even as you scale. Communication channels can break down as companies grow. Once you create a process for meetings and communication, stick with it as you add new teams and people. We currently have nearly 20 employees, but we’ve been conducting meetings the same way since we had just four people.
- Video chats. When face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, video chatting is the next best option. With video chats, you still see faces and body language, which are important for effective communication and personal connection. Also, video chatting means that when remote people do get a chance to come to the office, they know who everyone is.
- As a leader, be your true self at all times. Speak to your executives the same you way speak to your admin staff, clients, and partners. Don’t switch between different personas. I’m just me, in every scenario. That way, in all situations, there’s no wondering who I’m going to be.
There are so many positive effects internal relationship-building can have on a company.
First, it builds universal awareness of what’s going on within the organization. Startups are constantly changing, shifting, pivoting—in this unstable environment, it’s extremely important to keep everyone in the loop.
It also promotes a healthy company culture and motivated employees. To get our employees excited, we talk about slaying dragons (huge accomplishments). We give employees updates on the company’s profitable financial health, which keeps them confident and at ease but also aware and informed. We emphasize being active in the community, which matters to all of us. Discussing these items, processes, and values fosters cultural buy-in across the company.
Relationships are equally important when you’re working with clients and partners—and your sales process should reflect that.
Never overlook the values behind your sales strategy.
Salespeople have a negative connotation — many view sales as inherently disingenuous. But your sales strategy really doesn’t have to be. It can be about building relationships first and making sales second.
The bottom line is this: If you don’t master sales, your business will fail. So we expect our salespeople to be masterful relationship-builders. After all, people prefer to work with and pay someone they genuinely like.
This is how we approach sales:
- We tell our salespeople to be real and genuine. Don’t hide that you’re selling something, but don’t push sales first and above all else. Get away from sales talk. Discuss and acknowledge what matters to people (family, sports, current events). And always do more listening than talking.
- Our sales team acts as a solutions provider first and a sales engine second. We ask our salespeople: What client/partner problems can you potentially fix?
- When selling, we operate with honesty and integrity. We genuinely care about our clients and what they’re trying to accomplish—not just what makes us money.
Building relationships takes work. As a leader, establishing and managing relationships both internally and externally should remain atop your list of priorities at all times. Of course, the foundation of every great relationship is healthy communication. Internally, communication should be consistent, open, and transparent. Externally, communication should be consistent (not just when they’re buying from you—check in regularly), genuine, and trusting.
And above all, relationships should always come first—before your bottom line, before making a sale, before anything else.