I recently called a long-time customer to ask them to be a reference for a prospect we were trying to close. This client was someone we had worked with for several years, with consistently good results. Still, I always feel a little reluctant to ask customers for a favor, above and beyond our usual business relationship.

”Of course, I’ll be a reference for you,” my client reassured me, “it’s the least I can do. Your team has done a great job for me – I want you to succeed, so you can keep making me look good!”

What a delight it is to have happy customers, who are willing to make the extra effort to help you, even when they don’t need to do so. I thought about what we had done to make this client so satisfied. In retrospect, it was not due to any one specific action, but several taken before, during and after the sale, guided by one all-important principle.

Situational fluency and the golden rule of sales

Buyers today have access to more information about potential solution providers and their capabilities than ever before. They are fully empowered and want to be in charge of their own purchase processes. As a result, they expect sales professionals, when they engage with them, to provide value from the very start of their relationship.

Buyers expect sellers to be able to provide unique insight about their organization’s capabilities, and how they will create value for their specific challenges. They expect sellers to be passionate and persuasive, and also excellent communicators, both written and verbally. Most importantly, they want to work with experts with whom they can collaborate to develop an optimal solution.

This mix of seller knowledge, skills and attitude is called situational fluency, and it is expected by every buyer today. But in order to develop a happy, long-term client, sellers must also manifest a critical virtue before every sale: buyers value sellers who always act in the buyer’s interest first, before their own. This is the golden rule of selling today, and those professionals who sell transparently, and keep the buyer’s concerns and interests paramount, cultivate the highest levels of trustworthiness.

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