Are Relationships All That Important In Selling?
So often in selling we hear about “relationship” as the reason we win deals. I am curious about your opinion here. Would you buy an inferior solution from someone you like better than someone else? Conversely, if you find a great solution at a fair price, but don't really like the salesperson, would you buy that solution? As a "victim" of multiple back surgeries, I have had the opportunity to experience bedside manner on at least two occasions. When interviewing doctors and getting second opinions, I have always chosen the doctor I felt was most qualified, even if she was not a great communicator or someone I didn’t feel aligned with on a human level. That being said, all else being completely equal, I think we would choose the person we felt most comfortable with and would tip the scales in our way. This doesn't always happen in, say elections. Research shows that voters would choose that person they would “rather have a beer with.” Which could be another blog entirely!
From our perspective there is a huge difference in defining relationship:
- PERSONAL: I really like this person
- BUSINESS: This person and their solution will help me advance my goals
For sure there is a human connection in the business relationship. If your approach helps me reach my business and personal goal and makes ME successful…yours is the investment I will make. The reason I ask about all this is that we feel that relationship is used very generally and this creates a problem. If we think relationship means only on a human level as in “will other people like me” it drives behaviors. We often hear this with discounting and deal concessions, that is was done to protect the relationship. The other problem is that this lack of clear direction drives skill development for sales teams. Do we prepare them to be liked for better personal relationships, or do we prepare them to build better business relationships? Or, in the words of Jimmy Buffett; “Relationships, we all got 'em, we all want 'em, what do we do with 'em?"
We know unequivocally from Hugh Macdonald, who leads our win/loss analysis practice for clients that:
"Winners win when they show customers how they meet their needs at higher confidence and lower risk than alternatives."
As buying becomes more sophisticated and also more committee-driven, we believe the focus on business relationships is more important than ever. We need to help buyers:
- Diagnose and understand their own needs cross-functionally
- Have an even better idea than they do about how our proposed solution meets their needs at higher confidence and lower risk than alternatives
When this happens, we feel making them successful will lead to better personal relationships. I don't know about you, but I like people who help me be successful!