Relationship Selling Where will it lead?

Part of our consulting practice is helping our clients select salespeople. Therefore, we interview a lot of candidates. More often than not, we hear from candidates young and old “I sell on relationships”, “developing relationships is most important”, “my business is built on relationships” and on and on.

Four Relationship Scenarios

When you think about relationships with customers or prospects they pretty much fall into one of four categories:

  1. You have a relationship AND you have the business.
  2. You have a relationship and wish you had the business, but you don’t.
  3. You have no relationship, but still have the business.
  4. You have no relationship AND you don’t have the business.

In categories 2 and 4, you have to outsell your competition. You have no other choice. Time spent on developing a relationship is pretty much wasted. It’s not that relationships aren’t important, you just don’t have one, so get over it and try something else.

Does No Relationship Mean No Sale?

Of course not! If you have what you think is a strong relationship, but have yet to secure significant business from your prospect, it is quite likely your competitor has a stronger and deeper relationship with the account. Oh, oh, now you must rely on selling skills and not relationship building skills. You have to do some serious qualifying, ask some difficult questions and decide if you have any chance of getting the business.

Try This Approach

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain at this point. Try asking questions along the lines of:

“You know, Fred, we’ve known each other a long time and I you know I would really like the opportunity to show you how we can (save you money, improve quality, provide better lead times, reduce inventory, etc). What do I have to do to earn that opportunity?”


“Fred, I’ve been calling on you a long time and haven’t been able to convince you to favor me with your business. May I suggest something new; how about we start over? I want to set a time to call on you as if we had never met. I will come in we will discuss all we can do to make your life better and easier. This will be a real sales call. All I ask is this; at the end of the session you tell me that you will give me the opportunity to show you what we can do by placing some orders with us. Or, you tell me I have no chance of getting any business and we can continue as friends with no expectations of doing business together. Would you agree to that?

Is this a bold move? You bet it is. But where are you now….nowhere! You should spend your time calling on prospects where you have real opportunities and NOT developing relationships that lead to no business.

Time is your most precious asset; don’t waste it.

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