Some of the best lessons in entrepreneurship come from the people who have been in the game longer than we. For me, that person is my grandfather. While he was still around he taught me a lot about business and life.
Grandparents often have a special perspective about work ethic and how to build meaningful relationships with people professionally and personally. Grandparents have seen it all, and just because their careers happened in an earlier era doesn’t mean their lessons are irrelevant. Some of the most important sales techniques and life lessons from my grandfather’s sales career are still valid and valuable today.
Here are five lessons about B2B sales that I’ve learned from my grandfather:
1. Don’t rush it.
One of the first lessons my grandfather taught me is that you have to be patient if you want to make sales. Keep in mind that it takes time to close a deal. The more complex and high-dollar B2B sales deals might take 16-18 months to close. Putting pressure on prospects will only slow things down or end the discussions.
Be patient and keep perspective. Build a relationship with the team you’re working with. Don’t treat people like transactions. Treat every sales deal as a unique learning process that you can get something out of along the way. Enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
2. Talk to people.
Nowadays, everyone is using social media, email and digital sales tools, mostly to avoid speaking to each other. Digital tools can definitely be helpful, but take a page from my grandfather’s sales playbook, and start your sales process by picking up the phone. My grandfather liked to talk on the phone and valued the human touch. People in his generation didn’t have email, so they used the phone just to chat and connect.
One of the biggest surprises of working in sales in 2017 is that the phone is still an underrated, underutilized sales tool. Why? Because phone calls today are harder to ignore than email. A phone call can put you right through to the person you’re trying to reach. Sure, they can screen calls, but you often have better luck reaching your decision maker just by working the phones.
Also, just talking on the phone gives you unique insights into your prospect’s mindset and mood that no email can replicate. You can hear your prospect’s tone of voice, overcome objections, ask follow-up questions, resolve problems and explore new opportunities mid-conversation in a way that digital tools do not allow.
3. There are no shortcuts.
If you want something in life, you often need to make big sacrifices and be tenacious to get it. There are no shortcuts to success. B2B sales especially does not offer many shortcuts; building relationships with customers, closing deals and implementing B2B solutions takes persistence and hard work. You need to keep hitting the pavement and working the phones. Don’t stop until you reach the top decision makers on your list.
You need to be persistent, hungry and scrappy. If there’s a person who can help you close your deal, find a way to reach that person.
4. Think long-term.
My grandfather always choose long-term customer relationships over one-time transactions. It’s better business and a better way to treat people. Treat them so they know you’re interested in working together for the long-term instead of just trying to suck every dollar out of them in the short-term.
B2B sales is all about relationships. The best sales people have repeat customers who keep coming back to them and referring new business opportunities to them. If you make every sales deal a win-win, with the potential for future opportunities to add value for each other, you’ll get more deals and enjoy more meaningful customer relationships along the way.
5. Integrity is everything.
My grandfather did business with a handshake. For his generation, a person was only as good as their word. No matter how many amazing 21st century tech tools we bring into the B2B sales world, the fundamentals remain the same: it’s all about trust. If people can trust you to keep your promises, they will be more likely to buy from you. If people doubt your integrity, you will lose.
A lot has changed in the business world since my grandfather was young, but many of the life lessons and insights from his career are still true. Build relationships. Be patient. Use the phone or in-person meetings to enhance trust. Above all, always work toward long-term value-added relationships so customers come to believe in you. Do that and they will keep coming back to you for many deals over the years. That’s how you build a great long-term career that you’ll be proud to tell your grandkids about.