How To Build Better Business Relationships


Shweiki sat down with bestselling author and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, Andrew Davis, to talk about business relationships between sales reps and clients.  In 2016, he founded Monumental Shift, the world’s first marketing talent agency for thought leaders. Today, we are here to talk about building business relationships by knowing how to ask and answer questions in sales and how to rise above the noise.

Researching the Client: Do Your Homework

Dave: Today, we’re going to be talking about relationship building. A good place to start when talking about sales and negotiations is prepping for new prospects’ meetings. What are some actions sales reps should take in order to ask the right questions?

Andrew: The number one thing any sales rep has to do before a meeting is their homework. In the old days, sales reps used these prospect meetings as an opportunity to get to know the prospect and dive into who they are. This was before LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, YouTube videos, etc. However, in today’s world, you have to do your homework before a meeting and spend enough time researching in order to really understand what questions the prospect has already answered publicly and what questions they have not. Understanding what the company has already answered is very important going into a new prospect meeting.  Try spending at least 30 minutes diving into answering the initial questions you already have in your mind before going into a meeting. You do not need to ask them where they live, how their kids are, etc. because all of that information is already available online.

Dave: That’s right! You can find a lot of personal information much easier nowadays. If you are looking at LinkedIn profiles, you do not even need to be connected to them to check them out. What kind of information do you think is pertinent to know? How deep does someone need to research in order to prep properly?

Andrew: Remember, even if you are selling a $300 ad in a local magazine, it could still turn into a $1000 commitment for a longer campaign if you actually understood more about the business. Essentially, you want to perform three types of research:

  1. Personal research: Who is this person? Where do they come from? What is their perspective? LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google can give you a lot of insight and provide a good sense of the person.
  2. Company research: How deep are you diving into what the company is already doing in the digital world? Do not ask them dumb questions like “Have you thought about doing videos, print ads, etc. before?” because you should already know the answers to these questions. If you ask questions like that, then it makes it seem like you have not done your homework.
  3. Competitors research: What are their competitors doing? Who are their top 3 competitors and what kind of information can I gather about them that I can use as leverage? For example, I can say, “I see that your biggest competitor is going a trade show. Have you considered going to it as well? If you are not there, it makes it seem that you are not as serious as your competitor regarding this particular audience or business.” It is very beneficial to know these leverage points in a meeting to help build stronger relationships.


Dave: With company research, are you talking about following their feeds? Where do you find that type of information?

Andrew: The very first thing you should do when researching a company is look at its homepage. If it is a public company, you can read its annual report. Normally, these annual reports will contain a letter from the CEO and marketing line items. They provide valuable information on what the company spends on marketing and what the CEO wants the company to be known for. If you can regurgitate the same information found in the annual report at the meeting, then the whole room will start paying more attention. If the company does not have an annual report, you can find similar information in interviews with the CEO, blog posts, letters published publicly and YouTube videos of speeches or panels with the CEO. It is important to spend time on the social channels they are on. You can read their last 20-30 Facebook posts and check out what they are tweeting and to whom on Twitter.

SpyFu is a great tool to use in order to search for any brand and see what that brand has been spending on search. This tool determines what search terms they are buying which allows you, as a sales rep, to make some assumptions about them.  Another great tool is Google Trends which is a great way to see the momentum of a brand or a category, even by region.

Dave: What about competitors? Can you find their top competitors using these same tools?

Andrew: SpyFu will tell you what competitors are trying to buy or use the same keywords the prospect is searching for. In order to search for specific competitors, look for the keywords the prospective client is using and SpyFu will generate a report of companies that are also buying the same or similar keywords. So it will literally generate a list of competitors to look at and research.

Dave: In reality, some of these research techniques do not take up a lot of time. However, from a sales rep’s perspective, it might feel like it. Where should one allocate their time before they call or set up a meeting with somebody?

Andrew: From a lead perspective, I have always believed in quality over quantity. Therefore, I would rather make half the calls and close all of them rather than make 100 calls but only close half of them.  It also does not make sense to spend a lot of time researching for a call that only takes three minutes. You always need to be one step ahead of the prospect.

Many sales reps are trained to focus on “no” and how to overcome objections. However, I would like to suggest focusing on getting a “yes.” When you prepare for a “yes” and what happens after a “yes,” you will have a much higher rate of success. I call this “preparing for the yes.”

First Questions to Ask: Know Your Client

Dave: Okay, so now we are done with our research, what are some assumptions we can infer to get ready for the meeting or call? What are some good examples of what sales reps should be doing after they have done their research? What are good questions to start off the meeting?

Andrew: The first questions I ask are insightful. For example, I have a prospect meeting with a wedding photographer. One of the first things I do is go on their homepage and I find out that they are having a June, July, August special going on. In the meeting, one of the first questions I ask is “Is your special effective?” The photographer might say he or she was hoping people would book more during the summer season but it has not worked. This is a great opportunity to say “This is a good special. Maybe the problem is people simply not visiting your website. One of the things we offer is a $300 dollar ad that will come out this month and will drive people to take advantage of this great offer you have.”

Dave: Basically, the overall point is to use this research to touch on things that help to build trust between the sales rep and the prospective client. Dive deep quickly to show that you did your research and go from there. Lead with the research you have done rather than some sales script. On the other hand, how do we answer questions from prospects?

How to Answer “Yes” and “No” Questions

Andrew: The important thing to know when a prospect is asking questions is that it means they are interested. If they are asking questions, that means they really want the answers as fast as possible. If somebody asks you a question, the first thing you should do is answer it immediately. Stick with making one point and one point only and do not explain the answer away if it is a no. The more you talk, the less insight you are giving to that person.

Dave: A sales rep may think they are being heard, but in reality, the more they talk, the less they are actually conveying. Sales reps should be confident in their product and remember that they should be paid appropriately for the product or service they are selling.

Andrew: Many sales reps try to justify the price and after giving it, will immediately start giving the client the opportunity to get a discount. Do not tell the client where they should see value. Instead, let them decide what is of value. For instance, if you say its $500, they will ask if that also includes email. That means they are really excited about the emails. This leaves with you two ways to respond. One, you can say “No, it does not. However, if you want these emails, it will be an additional $75 a month.” Or two, you can say, “Yes, it does. I’m so glad you are excited about it because it has been effective in the past.”

Dave: This is assuming you pitched the full package to begin with.

Andrew: Also, it is important to never assume a client cannot afford a service or what their budget is. Tell them what the price is and let it hang.

Dave: To follow up, let’s say you are offering a $2500 a month deal but somebody says they only have a $1000 budget. What advice do you have for that situation?

Andrew: I try to answer directly and immediately. Let’s assume I would never take the $1000 deal and the lowest package I offer is $2500. At this point I would suggest two or three magazines that have price points within their range. My goal is to help that person find the best opportunity for them, even if they cannot do it with me. I want to be the solution provider so when they do have $2500, they will call me.

How to Answer “Why” and “How” Questions

Dave: Be deliberate, be direct and you will get the best results and make your life a lot easier. Let’s move on to “how” and “why” questions.

Andrew: “Why” and “how” questions are a little different than “yes and no” questions. When answering, make sure it has depth. For example, “How are you going to make sure you are going to get 100 people to view this webinar?” The answer has to be deliberate and direct. It could be “We have a three pronged approach to get people to attend webinars. First, we usually get 50-60 people to sign up for the live webinar. Secondly, we can usually get 20 more people to view it on demand within the next week. And for the last 30% of the audience, we do a heavy blast to a whole new set of customers we have never reached out to before. This is how we will get your audience to sign up for the webinar.” Remember to be very clear to not get off track.

Dave: This is kind of a side question, but what about setting goals? Being in marketing, it is hard to know what you can really achieve for each particular business? You really do not know what you can actually do until you get going.

Andrew: When I am in front of a potential client and I tell them that I can generate 100 leads for their new product, then I will follow with how I am going to do it. For example, if they ask how I can guarantee that 100, I will tell them “I cannot guarantee the 100 but let me tell you about a brand that is very similar to yours where I have been able to drive a 100 new leads that are high quality and I expect the same kind of results.” I quickly try to answer the question with a short case study that showcases my ability to execute on the goals I set for them.

Sales Presentations: Pitching Up or Down

Dave: It is a hard question to ask. Okay, so we are past the questions and now at the sales presentation. What are some helpful pointers for putting a sales presentation together?

Andrew: The first thing you should do if you are in sales is go through your deck and cut 70%. I challenge you to get rid of most of the stuff that does not matter.

  1. Get rid of all the stuff about you and your company. Clients do not care so you do not need it in the presentation. No one cares about you until they know what you can do for them.
  2. Get rid of the stuff that is not about that client’s success. If you have 10 slides, get ride of 7 and the 3 that are left are the ones most important to the client.
  3. Focus on one “yes” at a time and take shorter meetings. It is important to leave the client wanting more.

There is also a good lesson about pitching up or down. There are two different types of audiences sales reps pitch to. Pitching up is when you pitch to a CEO or some other decision maker in the company. Pitching down means you pitch to someone who has to pitch what you are selling to someone else.

If you are pitching up, then I want you to, first, focus on what it will look like tomorrow and then show what it looks like today. If you are pitching down, you want to do the opposite. You do not want to make them think their work that they have been doing has not been effective. Therefore, when pitching down start with today then tomorrow.

Follow Up: Be Different and Write a Thank You Note

Dave: Do you have any helpful pointers on follow up? How often? When should you call next? How do you avoid the brushoff?

Andrew: I want you to think about this when you leave that office or hang up the phone, the goal is to have that client really excited to be working with you. What happens after that meeting, though, is that they go back to their office with 400 emails and a lot of other things to deal with and their enthusiasm immediately starts to wane. It is important to keep them inspired. Make a list right now of all the things average sales reps do to follow up. Most people use emails or a phone call after a few days. I want to challenge you to not do them for the next week. Instead of writing an email, you can overnight a FedEx package with your presentation deck in it. Try doing things that no one else is doing to stand out. Write a handwritten thank you note instead of calling. All of a sudden these things remind them to think about what inspired them originally. You have to show them your different and not just tell them.

Dave: How has this helped you with your personal relationships?

Andrew: The biggest one is how to answer questions. Being deliberate and direct with my personal relationships has helped a lot. If you take nothing away from this, being deliberate and being direct can change how you do business.

Dave: It sounds easy but it will certainly take practice. How can people continue to learn from you?

Andrew: You can find me on YouTube or Twitter @DrewDavisHere.

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Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis’ 20-year career has taken him from local television to The Today Show. He’s worked for The Muppets in New York, written for Charles Kuralt and marketed for tiny start-ups as well as Fortune 500 brands. In 2001, Andrew Davis co-founded Tippingpoint Labs, where he changed the way publishers think and how brands market their products. His most recent book, Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships hit shelves in September, 2012.

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