The handshake: it’s an act that predates modern times. In ancient stone carvings that date back to the 4th century BC, Romans can be seen shaking hands with one another, though that action may have been less about closing a deal than about reassuring themselves that the other person was not carrying a weapon.

Over time, the ritual of the handshake evolved into a sign of trust. Indeed, for some time, contracts were superfluous—once you shook on it, the deal was as good as done.

For better or worse, a handshake is no longer nearly enough to seal a business deal; it’s merely the foundation on which we start to build relationships. And the strength of those relationships can make or break our future deals.

How to build strong relationships with buyers

Ironically, in the era of constant communication, it can be harder than ever to build meaningful relationships. For sellers, that difficulty arises in part because they’re engaging buyers later and later in the purchase cycle. Nearly three-quarters of buyers said they did not want to engage with a seller until they fully understood their purchasing needs, according to CSO Insights.

So, how can you get in the door earlier to build a relationship that buyers don’t feel they even need? Sellers must work to establish themselves not as mere transactional agents but as a trusted resource for buyers. They must show how they can help buyers improve decisions by more fully informing them about the stakes of the deal as well as the value for the business. What’s more, sellers must build trust if they wish to ultimately become the buyer’s partner.

To do that, sellers must find an opportunity to shake hands earlier in the buying process, using a pitch that is tailored to that buyer’s individual decision-making style. This is where the five buyer personas—Charismatic, Thinker, Skeptic, Follower, and Controller—come into play.

Understanding buyer personas strengthens partnerships

By completely understanding their buyers’ decision-making styles, sellers can reach prospective customers at the right time with the right message—establishing the value of their expertise and raising interest in the relationship as a whole. For example, our research found that risk-takers—Charismatics and Skeptics—were five times as likely to prefer engaging with a seller early in the process.

You can’t stop there in personalizing your approach, though. Identifying Charismatics and Skeptics may open the door earlier, but you still need to use the right strategy to reach multiple decision-makers, increasing your opportunities to build the valuable relationships that will help you close sales.

Additionally, circumstances matter too. While buyers typically engage sellers later in the process, there is an opportunity for sellers to leverage their expertise and enter the sales cycle at the start of the process, as 90 percent of buyers said they were willing to engage sellers earlier if a business challenge was new to them or if they  perceived a purchase  as risky or complex. This early engagement provides sellers the opportunity to deepen a relationship and differentiate themselves.

Recognizing the unique styles of prospective purchasers and communicating according to their preferences is the best way to break through buyer apathy. By studying your buyers’ desired style and substance and responding according to their specific personas, you can create opportunities to engage earlier, inform purchasing decisions and build the ongoing relationships that will keep your buyers out of self-service mode. Moreover, it can help you build a long-lasting partnership that is based on trust, not transactions—a relationship that both you and your buyer can sustain, regardless of where your career paths lead.

Contact us and learn more about how Miller Heiman Group can help.

Up Next

Why You Need to Know “The Need behind The Need”

Sales Performance | May 15, 2019

Why You Need to Know “The Need behind The Need”

More Than a Handshake: How to Become a Trusted Business Partner

Sales Performance | May 9, 2019

More Than a Handshake: How to Become a Trusted Business Partner

Hit Your Targets with the Valid Business Reason

Sales Performance | May 7, 2019

Hit Your Targets with the Valid Business Reason