Successful buying decisions come from leading successful buying relationships. These relationships require participation and collaboration from all sides of the deal and are built from the ground up upon a foundation of mutual understanding, trust, and respect.

People buy from people they respect, respect people they trust and trust people they understand. Each of these three elements supports the other. If one is missing, or if the quality and integrity of one becomes compromised, so too will the quality and integrity of the buying relationship.

In this three-part series, we’ll explore each of the three elements that salespeople who compete and win as servant leaders cultivate when they lead successful buying relationships.

Understand So You Can Be Understood

Though most sales leaders will quickly agree that strong buying relationships are built upon trust and respect, it’s vital to recognize that achieving a mutual understanding between parties is a prerequisite, and the only way mutual trust and respect can grow.

Trust and respect is therefore earned by our capacity to understand and to be understood. Every aspect of servant leadership circles back to the idea that you achieve what you earn. You have the customers, employees, leaders, revenue, buyers and business you deserve because they are what you’ve earned. If you’re not operating this way, you’re admitting that success is not within your own control, and that the outcomes of your decisions and actions  rest purely in the hands of fate.

As a servant leader, your capacity to understand hinges upon the unique and relevant experiences, knowledge and curiosity you have for your buyer and buying center. Most salespeople recognize the value of asking questions that come from their own experiences and knowledge. But, servant leaders take it to the next level by tapping into a deep and sincere source of curiosity. One that empowers them to ask enough good and tough questions, so they can fully differentiate themselves and establish the value of their expertise.

Good and tough questions make buyers think and may even make them uncomfortable. These are questions that give the buyer pause, but stop short of putting them on the defense.  Achieving this depth of understanding is a key difference between a highly successful buying relationship and one that’s only marginally successful. And the better you are at listening to the buyer’s responses, the better equipped you’ll be to elevate your relationship and move the conversation forward.

Equally as important, your capacity to be understood by the buyer hinges upon how relevant your description of what you do and how you do it is to the buyer.  Too often we communicate using words and stories that are meaningful to us but not meaningful, or as meaningful to the buyer.  The harder we make the buyer work to understand us, the more room we create for competitors.

Being good at being understood starts with an essential tenet of servant leadership. We want to communicate with others as they would have us communicate with them. That is to say, we want to use words and stories that are meaningful to them. This is not hard to accomplish if you are already practiced at understanding your buyer – i.e. asking buyers good and tough questions and truly listening to their answers.

The better you understand your buyer, the easier it is to be understood, and the more familiar and compelling you become to new and existing clients or customers.

What’s Next?

Although mutual trust and respect are critical elements of any successful relationship, as salespeople who compete and win as servant leaders, we must not overlook the importance of first establishing mutual understanding.

In Part Two, we’ll cover how mutual understanding contributes to building trust and the deeper definition of trust that is essential to leading successful buying relationships.

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