Is sales a ‘relationship-driven business’ ? Really?


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I recently read a blog post by Andrew Hunt in which he stated: “…sales remains a relationship-driven business, the power of “who you know” is trumped by “what you know about who you know.” “

Andrew is preaching the gospel of the entire sales industry: this is a common belief in the field, and drives much of the business end of the social media revolution. But is it really true?


The only reason sellers attempt to ‘get into relationship’ is to close a sale. Come on, folks. Why are you being so nice? Do you need more friends? Are you looking for a date? It’s because you think that by making nice, or finding someone who knows someone else who makes nice to the other person, that you can close a sale because the buyer will like you and feel indebted to your friendship.

Stop. You are shimmying up the wrong tree. Until or unless a buyer has recognized and managed all of the internal, behind-the-scenes personal and change management issues that are somehow touching the recognized ‘problem’, and get the requisite buy-in, they will take no action no matter how much they like you.

If a company is awaiting the completion of a merger, will liking you help them choose when to move on purchasing a new building or a leadership training program?

If the tech folks and the sales folks aren’t speaking to each other, will a relationship with you cause them to begin a CRM implementation?

If the CFO manages the web design group and has had a hand in developing the last 2 websites, will you being their friend convince them that you are better than their CFO or tech folks at web design?

If sales is a ‘relationship-driven business’, then you would be closing a helluva lot more sales – you’re so likable, after-all!


Until or unless a buyer gets all of the right people to buy-in to change, until or unless all of the members of the Buying Decision Team are on board, until or unless everyone knows how to bring in a solution without causing stress or disruption to the status quo, they will do nothing.

No matter who you know, or who likes you; no matter who on the Buying Decision Team wants you as the vendor; no matter whose cousin is friends with the CFO or who recommends you – until the Buying Decision Team is fully formed, buys in to change, knows their current vendors cannot handle the problem, has across-the-board agreement to a change, they will do nothing.

I hate to break it to you folks: it’s not about you, it’s not about your Prada shoes or sterling personality, or your charm/perseverance/brilliance.

Buyers buy when they cannot resolve a problem themselves. They buy when everyone is bought in. The very very last thing they need is your solution. Literally.

If you truly care about your prospect, and want a relationship, help them manage their off-line, back-end, personal and behind-the-scenes issues before you try to uncover need or sell a solution.

I can’t even buy from my own sister if my company doesn’t want to, or isn’t ready to, go through the change process. Help the buyer buy. And let them like you because you truly serve them.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sharon-Drew Morgen
I'm an original thinker. I wrote the NYT Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 8 other books bridging systemic brain change models with business, for sales, leadership, communications, coaching. I invented Buying Facilitation(R) (Buy Side support), How of Change(tm) (creates neural pathways for habit change), and listening without bias. I coach, train, speak, and consult companies and teams who seek Servant Leader models.


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