The run down the sales funnel is partially unpredictable. On your end and on the end of your prospect circumstances will change. Priorities will change, organizations will change and the market place changes. It is the responsibility of sales to maintain the relationship.
Communication is essential
In theory both the sales person and his prospect should put in the same effort in maintaining the relationship. In practice it is often the sales manager who is expected to take the leading role. The sales person should establish a way of communication, which is comfortable for both parties. The sales person should know what is going on in the “world” of his prospect and he should share details on his changing situation at the same time.
Steps in the sales funnel
The sales person should be aware of the final goal of maintaining the relationship with his prospect. The goal is not a secret and it does never harm your relationship when communicating this goal. You can summarize the process every time you talk to your prospect. You and your prospect should discuss in what stage your relationship is and ultimately in what stage of the sales process you are.
Support your prospect
During the discussion on the status of the sales process, your prospect might indicate his limitations and objections. As a sales person, you should feed your prospect to overcome these factors harming your relationship. Do not underestimate the struggle your prospect has to go through in his organization. You should train your prospect to give the appropriate answer to his colleagues and other stakeholders. As a sales person you should be able to manage expectations of third parties.
Signs of Appreciation
In personal relationships you tell each other that you appreciate him. In buyer-seller relationships this does not happen frequently. In the business relations you have to look more careful for the signs of appreciation of your relationship. Good indications of your prospects appreciation are displaying when he starts introducing you to his colleagues (referrals) or to other opportunities outside his company. You might also check the mutuality of the understanding of the good relation by asking for referrals. In case your prospect refuses you know something is not right.