What Successful “Relationship Selling” Looks Like

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Is it really that simple?, marketing, social media
Tags: , , , , ,

Listen to an audio recording of this blog post here:

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Oh what a view!

A couple of weeks ago, I was staying in this ridiculous mansion out at Sylvan Lake. No, it wasn’t mine (someday!). I had been invited out for the weekend by a friend to enjoy some time off lakeside. As is my custom, I found myself in a debate with one of the other house guests. The topic? Relationship selling.

See, the conversation began around clubs, networks and the likes and your reasons for joining them. Are you in a networking club just so you can “sell”  your goods or services? Are you there to meet friends and like-minded people? Her point, relationship selling doesn’t work. My point, the only way human beings function is through relationships, so of course relationship selling works. It’s all “relative” anyway. To which she responded, “So, everyone is in a relationship with somebody or to something… that advice doesn’t help anyone.”

She’s right of course, that piece of information isn’t something immediately actionable by anybody. But for me, it IS the key to understanding the intricacies of relationship and just how subtle successful relationship selling is. (Tip: social media/relationship selling… same deal). It’s the most important point to understand. My goal was not to provide the magic formula for relationship selling, it was to communicate that everything we perceive about our world is only done in relation to something else. So in that sense, we are in a constant and evolving relationship to one another.

I used to cringe when the word “sales” came up in a conversation. To me, it meant trying to convince the person in front of me to purchase my goods or services in this moment. It was my job to onboard you. If I couldn’t close in the short-term, I had failed. You can imagine the inner turmoil when I thought of bringing that style of selling into my relationships. It’s very easy for friends to start looking like walking dollar signs. It’s why network marketing often has a bad rep.

I run into a myriad of people who still hold that perception of sales. Get rid of it. It won’t help you today, tomorrow or the day after that.

Relationship selling is simple, it’s just not easy and it takes time. It requires a consistency to your approach and doesn’t stop when you leave the office. It consists of building a genuine rapport with the person you’re speaking with, caring enough about them to establish whether your goods or service will be helpful and being confident enough to accept their answer of yay or nay without making it about you. Oh, and we can’t forget timing. But that’s not always something we can predict.

The other side to this is that your relationships follow you everywhere. Relationship selling doesn’t stay at the office. It’s how you approach your clients, your friends, your family, your networking groups, your online interactions – everything. It’s knowing that you can never predict when a business relationship will collide with you at a personal event. Or when your friend refers you to a client. Or that guy you’re working in the kitchen with up in the oilfields ends up as the business partner you didn’t even know you were looking for.

See, relationship selling is all about the impression you leave with people. It starts the moment you converse. It also requires being clear and upfront about your intentions. Successful relationship selling leaves room for either party to say yes or no and to have their decision respected. And it’s an approach that works with friends, family, coworkers, current and potential clients and any other person you come into contact with. Just rinse and repeat with every relationship and you’re golden.

How do I know? It’s how I’ve learned to operate sustainably. And it’s working.

That’s it. So, if you aren’t haven’t much success with relationship selling, consider:

  1. Re-evaluating your sense of what it means to “sell”. It may not work in terms of relationships.
  2. Do a self-audit on the relationships in your life. Are they supporting you? Or are they hindering you? Oh, and sometimes relationship selling is about ending the relationships (or at least changing their terms) when they aren’t serving you or the other party.

Takeaway: Be genuine. Be transparent. Be helpful where you can be. And always look for the opportunity that is mutually beneficial. Added emphasis on mutually.

  1. LOL – I agree… with most of what you said Wendy. My point was – most people who say they do ‘relationship selling’ typically don’t sell. They use the excuse of “I have to develop a ‘relationship’ and that takes time.” But the truth is – it may and it may not. And the relationship is all about mutual (totally agree with you on this) value-for-value exchange!

    I prefer to buy from people I like… but it’s not required. Frankly I don’t consider myself to have a ‘relationship’ with the person who sold me the car I bought – aside from the day we worked on that transaction. I did pick her over other sales reps because of her style and approach – so to that extent – yes who, and how, she was mattered… but I wouldn’t call her up to go to a movie and I don’t know much about her, or her me… That’s what I think of when people say ‘relationship’ – which is why I think it’s often a meaningless term. And an excuse to avoid asking for a sale.

    So when you say: It consists of building a genuine rapport with the person you’re speaking with, caring enough about them to establish whether your goods or service will be helpful and being confident enough to accept their answer of yay or nay without making it about you. Oh, and we can’t forget timing. But that’s not always something we can predict.

    Absoluetly! That’s all true… it is about being in service to them. And if you have a product or service that you believe in, that could be of servie to them – why on earth would you not offer it immediately and let them decide (vs. us making assumptions about the ‘timing’). Authenticity matters. Honesty matters. And yes we are in a relationship with everyone… but that doesn’t mean that we are ‘relationship selling’ unless the last word is actually happening.

    Good debate though… 🙂

  2. Wendy Peters says:

    Agreed, there are many other factors that go into a person’s decision to buy. BUT… when it comes down to the purchase, if someone you know offers the same goods at the same price as someone you don’t know… or if you can gain other incentives like discounts, extended warranties or even just know you’re supporting someone you know vs someone you don’t, would the relationship not then be the key influencer in your decision to purchase?

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