What Is the Truth About Relationship Selling?

By Jeff Beals

For several years now, I have been hearing that “relationship selling is dead.”

In other words, people are so busy and so self-absorbed they no longer have time to build relationships with companies and organizations. People are so time-starved that they no longer are interested in becoming “friends” with salespeople or even the owners/executives of the companies with which they do business.

Today, the argument goes, people are simply too overwhelmed for relationship-based selling to be effective.

What is relationship selling? It’s the theory that customers put so much value in the positive interaction with a company or company representative, that they develop strong feelings of loyalty, which sometimes can be even more powerful than the quality of the good or service and its price.

Well, relationship selling is still quite alive, but there have been some societal changes that have affected the way we conduct relationship selling.

It used to be that salespeople were the only true experts when it came to product features and benefits. If you wanted to learn what a product could do for your business, you had to sit down with a highly trained sales rep and ask a bunch of questions. Much of the value that the salesperson provided was in the form of knowledge dispensing.

In almost every industry, customers no longer are so dependent upon a salesperson’s knowledge. The internet provides a wide array of product information and all those blunt reviews on social media can provide incredible insight into products.

All this easily available product knowledge has sped up the sales cycle and caused buyers to see products and services as mere commodities. At the same time, if you cater to big companies, you are dealing with professional buyers who are growing ever sophisticated in how they “beat up” their vendors on price.

So, if you sell things for a living, what do you do?

Remember that building relationships with clients is still important. People like to have positive and trusting relationships with the people who provide them with products and services, but you have to build the relationship in a way and at a pace that appeals to them. These days, you have to do things a little differently:

1. Value – You must constantly focus on delivering what your customers value without assuming what they value. Only the customer can decide what is valuable to them, not you. Nobody needs to be buddies with a vendor just for the sake of having more friends. First and foremost, a business needs to provide exactly what a customer wants/needs. After that, you can differentiate yourself from the competition with a positive relationship. As long as the clients are receiving what they value, the advantage goes to whichever provider can develop the most positive connection. Life is short and full of stress, so when everything else is equal, we’d rather work with people we like.

2. Teammate – Since so much product information is available before prospects even pick up the telephone or send an email, the salesperson’s job has changed. Instead of being an all-knowing information provider, successful salespeople are coaches and guides. They listen carefully to what prospective customers want and then steer them to the best choice. If you do this properly, you WILL build a relationship that will yield fruit long into the future.

3. Speed – Because the marketplace is more hyperactive than in years past, you need to move quickly. You can still build long-term relationships but you don’t have much time to get started. Prospective customers expect calls to be returned immediately. They expect answers now instead of waiting a couple days for you to get back to them. If you’re a business leader, empower your staff to provide answers as autonomously as possible. Any delay, especially early in the selling cycle, can cause the prospect to drift over to your competitor. Gone is the old standard that “you have 24 hours to return a message.”

4. Take Charge – Once you have figured out exactly what the prospect values, it’s time to take charge.  While nobody likes a pushy salesperson, buyers do look to the sales rep to be the leader.  As long as your message is consistent with what your customer values, it’s okay to plant ideas in their heads and challenge them to think differently.

Contrary to popular belief, you could argue that business relationships are even MORE valuable than they were in the past. While customers have more knowledge and options at their disposal, they’re simultaneously under more stress. The successful sales practitioner is the one who constantly delivers client value in a pleasant and stress-free manner and knows when it’s okay to push.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

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