Some Truths (You May Not Like) About Relationship Selling


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I’ve heard this stated so many ways and so many times.

“Dave, you need to know that our business is all about relationships!”

There are four possible relationship scenarios:

  1. Strong relationship and you have the business
  2. Strong relationship but you don’t have the business
  3. Lack of relationship and you have the business
  4. Lack of relationship and you don’t have the business

In scenarios 2 and 4 you must outsell the competition, not focus on more time-consuming relationship building. It’s not that relationships aren’t important, it’s that they distract from the business of selling and, more often than not, become an ill-advised replacement for the actual selling.

Unless you find yourself in a one-time, one-call close, the relationships will always be important. You’ll be either attempting to take the business away from the incumbent with the strong relationship, or you’ll be protecting an existing relationship of yours to assure that nobody takes the business away from you.

I see something else going on though. In some companies the obsession with relationships supersedes the need to generate business. Perhaps you have seen this in your company; A salesperson has been calling on a prospect for quite some time, perhaps years, and has developed a tremendous relationship. However, despite that great relationship, the salesperson does not yet have the business.

Unfortunately, this occurs much more frequently than you think. I believe that it occurs so frequently that it’s more like an epidemic.

If we were to conduct an analysis of what’s actually taking place, we’ll find that the relationship is so good that the salesperson is horrified to say, ask or do anything that might jeopardize it.

Does the salesperson imagine the relationship being that strong?

Does the salesperson imagine that the simple act of asking for the business could actually jeopardize the relationship?

After all, what is the goal? Is the goal to make friends or generate sales?

If the salesperson has a truly strong relationship then he must leverage it and get the business. But more often than not, the successful result simply doesn’t occur.

Could it be because of any of these 10 likely causes?:

  1. Fear of failure?
  2. Fear of rejection?
  3. Too trusting?
  4. Need for approval?
  5. Self-limiting beliefs?
  6. Emotionally involved?
  7. Lack of Commitment?
  8. Lack of strategy?
  9. Not having the necessary tactics?
  10. Not following the sales process?
  • All of the above?
  • Some of the above.

There is another thing to consider in cases like these. Usually, when the salesperson has what is believed to be a strong relationship, but doesn’t have the accompanying business, it is likely that there is an even stronger relationship with the incumbent firmly in place. In cases like that, the salesperson might as well be competing head on for the business without the benefit of any relationship because the relationships essentially cancel each other out! The salesperson is not in a scenario where the relationship itself will trigger a change so the salesperson must instead rely on selling capabilities, not relationship building skills.

Relationships are important but they guarantee nothing, sell nothing, and often yield nothing. You may not get business without a relationship, but today you’ll need much more than a relationship to succeed.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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