If customer loyalty means a bond that will outlast the next attractive offer from your competitors, then loyalty cannot be bought with discounts or special programs. But loyalty can and must be sold—by your sales force, consistently, on every call. The one thing your competition can never match or beat is a great relationship—a genuinely loyal relationship—between a client and one of your salespeople.

Research has proven that in any major transaction, customers will not buy your product or your company unless they have first bought the salesperson. That applies in spades when the “product” is loyalty. Loyalty implies a powerful relationship and such relationships are forged by people, not by corporate entities.

If your sales force isn’t selling loyalty, it might be because they don’t know how. But here’s another possibility: Maybe they can’t sell it because they don’t feel it.

“Loyalty is hard to fake.”

Salespeople who are good at selling loyalty are good at “selling their companies” to customers. Why would clients give more business to a supplier unless they feel some enthusiasm for that supplier as a partner? And why would they feel enthusiasm if the supplier’s representative—the salesperson—doesn’t?

To generate customer loyalty for their companies, salespeople must convincingly demonstrate that they, themselves, feel loyal to their employers. The customer must believe that the salesperson is enthusiastic about the company and is committed to it. That sense of loyalty is very hard to fake. If the salesperson actually thinks the company is a mediocre employer, it is extremely difficult to persuade clients that the company would make a good long-term partner.

Many factors can help determine the loyalty people feel for their own companies, but a primary motivator is the sense that they are moving forward in their careers. Nobody is loyal to, or enthusiastic about, a dead-end job.

One great loyalty builder, therefore, is training—especially training that makes salespeople demonstrably better and more successful at what they do. Since what they do is bring money into the company, effective sales training is a great investment, too. Everybody wins.

Action Selling ® In Action

“My group is having another great year in a very tough petroleum market,” says David L. Winkler, training coordinator for CHS Inc., the Fortune-500 energy and agricultural-products company. “When a salesperson has a professional approach to helping customers identify and solve their problems, customers welcome them with open arms.”

Since CHS adopted the Action Selling ® system, Winkler says, improved sales relationships have generated more customer loyalty, which means greater success for salespeople, which leads to greater loyalty to CHS.

“As these folks meet with success,” he says, “their jobs become more fun. They’re happier. And we all know that happy employees are productive employees. It’s a positive cycle, and once they’re in it, they never want to leave.”