First of all for a relationship to be sustainable, sales people have to ensure their customers are always happy with them and their service. The words make it sound quite simple but it requires skill to be able to build and then maintain a sustainable client/customer relationship. I have worked with thousands of sales people over the last 20 years and I think it’s safe to say that many sales people will 'go out of their way' for a valued customer in order to keep their business. This is all good, but many sales people will often give more than they take or at least feel that they have to work very hard to keep the business at a level. The skills required here are not working harder or for longer hours, because that just impacts on the rest of the sales territory. The skill is in understanding rapport and how to earn enough respect so that a sales person can maintain a healthy working relationship without selling their soul. Here are some tips for sales people who would like to build solid and sustainable relationships with their customer/clients;

1. Understand rapport: It’s a mutual understanding which grows into respect and is hard to break because when you have a good mutual respect there is mutual understanding over decisions made. Rapport does not have to be based on personal interests and common hobbies alone. You already have the biggest thing in common - the bottom line. So keep your rapport relevant to the common goal.

2. Build relevant rapport - do your homework. I remember back in my family shops when we used to have sales reps visit us to sell their products: Some reps would just merchandise and leave, but the best reps would stop and discuss what was happening in the market place and gave us an insight into what coud really help us to grow our business or to stay ahead of the market. Whatever you are selling and whatever your industry there is always relevant and valuable information to be discussed based on the market influencers such as Politics, Economic, Social and technological (P.E.S.T). If you can discuss growth with your customer, you will earn more respect which leads to a better relationship.

3. Value your time. You should always look to evaluate the return on your time invested in an account or with a customer/client. Are you getting back as much as you put in? Ask yourself this: are you visiting them because they want you to or because you have an objective?

4. Value yourself. Your knowledge and expertise should be a key reason why a customer chooses to 'like' you. Seek to get to a point where they rely on your knowledge and expertise as well as what you can action for them.

5. Always aim to come away from a meeting with a mutual task list. It’s easy to come away with lots of action points that are one sided but if this is happening then you probably need to rethink point 3.

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