Operations

How Genuine Relationships Help You Sell

Lexi Tucker
Posted on January 11, 2019
(L to R) Bill Faeth and Kanye Harris discussed the importance of building real, solid relationships instead of just bugging people into spending on your service (Photo credit: Blake Russell).

(L to R) Bill Faeth and Kanye Harris discussed the importance of building real, solid relationships instead of just bugging people into spending on your service (Photo credit: Blake Russell).

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — At Bill Faeth’s Limo University LAB Live event in April 2018, he hosted a chat with Kanye Harris, multi-national account manager for Delta Airlines, about what it takes to forge relationships with gatekeepers and why that’s important.

Forging Bonds Is #1

When looking to connect with a potential client, you should shoot for developing a partnership on a personal rather than corporate level. Over time, Faeth and Harris connected about matters they had in common or were interesting. Harris’ love of soccer, being from Germany, and family life were topics that helped them get to know each other.

This relationship ended up helping Faeth get a warm introduction to connections at Scripps Networks, Eastman Kodak, World Travel, and more. “The reason I took Bill with me [to meet representatives from these companies] is because we connected on a personal level. He shared with me his life pre-ground transportation, how he was a professional golfer, and the story of how he met his wife. It was more of a deep-rooted than a superficial relationship. You can always go, ‘Hey buddy, how are you doing?’ and call that a relationship, but that doesn’t plant the seeds for future growth.”

In the end, it’s about mutual benefit. Harris believes this is the core of creating a lasting partnership. “When Bill calls me years later and invites me to attend one of his events, I’m happy to do so because I consider him more of a friend than just a business partner. I believe it’s important to establish those relationships and make sure they’re rooted so it doesn’t become a one-way street. It’s a win-win-win for everyone — for me, for you, and the customer.”

Building Trust

Harris manages Fortune 100 and 500 accounts internationally. When asked how important it is for him to build relationships with the people he deals with in sales and then after closing, he said it depends on how much he trusts a person.

“I don’t just show up and say, ‘Hey, I’m with Delta Airlines, give me your business.’ It doesn’t work that way. It’s much different when you’re in a global economy where the cultures are different. Whether I’m in Tokyo, Japan; Stavanger, Norway; or Aberdeen, Scotland, it’s about selling yourself. It’s not necessarily that people are buying Delta Airlines because of the brand. They’re buying Delta Airlines because of me as the representative and ambassador of the brand.”

This is essential to beating the competition in your own market. Many luxury transportation companies have the same equipment, cars, and software, just like flying on a plane feels the same. What people care about is the flight is safe, clean, on-time, and their bags don’t go missing.

“So, what differentiates me from an Etihad or Emirates that have jacuzzis, bars, and in-flight showers? Being able to build relationships with the people who matter. You have to find the people that can truly effect change.”

Where people drop the ball is when they get the account and then only think about themselves from that point on, Harris said. “That’s the biggest downfall because service after the sale is really key, and they expect to have that same type of service no matter the number of times you’ve served them. The follow through is just as important.”

Consistent Service

How does Harris sell against United, American, and Southwest? He takes a lot of the business no one wants. While he manages a $40 million a year Toyota account, he also manages a wrestling account for $800,000.

“They get the same level of service because I want them to have the same experience. A lot of times, that’s where people make a mistake. I think if you could get a lot of the smaller accounts and customers, it yields a lot of revenue. It’s all about earning that business and chasing every dollar you can.”

For companies that aren’t price driven but already use a service, you need to get creative in adding value. Every corporation has a segment that needs chauffeured vehicles; you just have to earn their loyalty first. “I’ll try to sell them in a different way. You’re not trying to displace other major carriers. You can be their secondary or supplemental provider. After a while, they’re going to see you are doing a far better job than your competitor.”

Let your service do the talking; there will be no need to compromise or bash your competitors.

Reestablishing Severed Relationships

If you happen to lose an account and want to re-establish it, it’s best to send another member of your team. “Usually, the relationship sours because it’s on an individual. When we sever our partnerships, which we rarely do and which customers rarely do, but in the event that we do lose it, traditionally it’s a different approach. Or we wait for a new gatekeeper to come.”

You have to understand why the relationship was severed and ask them, “How can we make this right?” “A lot of people are willing to forgive if you try to be proactive with service recovery,” he said. Are you giving them a credit or an upgrade to make up for the fact someone on your team messed up? It’s about spending the little bit of money to get that business back. You must earn business, not expect it.

Harris gave an example of what tends to happen on airlines. When they overbook and have to pay someone to give up their seat, it can cause some waves. Often, the traveler still has to go through a chain of command to get things done at the customer service level.

“I’m always there as the last person they speak with. When the buck stops with me, I try to get the resolution. At that point, it’s more of a one-on-one; not with the company they are traveling for, but with the traveler themselves.”

Knowing When It’s Worthwhile

It’s important to have a sense for whether or not trying to foster a relationship will be worth your time. It’s part dating, and part systemic, Faeth said. You’ll usually have a gut feeling if the other person is open to working with you. “If I get to step four in my eight-step or seven-step sales process and they haven’t reviewed my proposal at that point, then I’m done if I have other opportunities to focus on.”   

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Related Topics: airlines, Bill Faeth, customer service, LAB Live, Limo U, Sales & Marketing

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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