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Relationship selling

 

Disciplines > Sales > Relationship selling

It's the people | The centrality of trust | Win-win | B2B | Relationships under pressure

 

The problem with one-off selling in a situation where you want the customer to come back again is that if they are at all unhappy then will go elsewhere next time. Worse still, they may warn their friends not to buy from you either. The preferred alternative for many sales situations is to build the right relationship.

Relationship selling is also known by other names, including 'Consultative Selling'.

It's the people!

An important part of selling where you want repeat sales is the relationship between the sales person and the person doing the buying. If the person is going to buy often, then the relationship may even develop into a genuine friendship.

The centrality of trust

In a relationship-based situation, a critical factor is trust. This takes time to build, for particularly for the buyer to accept that the seller will always keep their best interests at heart. If trust is threatened or broken, then the sales person will have to put in a huge effort to rescue the relationship - and even then it may be lost.

Whereas in One-off selling the buyer has most to lose, in relationship selling the seller can be the biggest loser if they sell something that is not wanted. Not only may the product be returned, but all future sales may be lost.

Trust-building is such a major activity in this approach it can take up to half of your time. But this is repaid by a short close (as opposed the long objection-handling of one-off selling).

Win-win

This type of selling has to end up as a variable-pie win-win exchange. The seller wants the buyer to feel that they have got a fair deal, and the buyer, although they want a good price, do not want the seller to go out of business. Many negotiables beyond price are on the table, including goodwill and future sales opportunities.

Relationship selling happens in any place where relationships are important. Thus when a husband and wife are negotiating about something, they will be more successful if they both consider the relationship as well as whatever it is they each want.

B2B (business to business)

A typical place where such relationship selling takes place is in business-to-business situations, and even more so where selling and buying are both professional activities, and full-time sales people deal with full-time buyers. When the smart buyer has been on a wide range of sales courses, they can see selling techniques coming from a mile away.

Objections and closing still happens here, but it is far more subtle and with a lot closer regard for the relationship, and any form of deception is usually avoided. The focus of the sales person is to help solve genuine problems that their customers are experiencing and they often take time to acquire a deep understanding about their customers' businesses, using methods such as SPIN Selling and Customer-Centered Selling.

Relationships under pressure

In practice, business sales people often have monthly quotas that they need to meet and hence may use more pressured methods than perhaps they would like. This is a hazardous practice, as it may seriously damage the relationship, putting additional pressure on the hapless sales person who falls into the dangerous chasm.

See also

SPIN Selling, Customer-Centered Selling, Positivity principle, Pull principle

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