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How to Turn a Relationship into a Sale      

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Executive Summary.

  1. Why this is important.
  2. Two thoughts on doing so.
  3. Relationship to Trusted Advisor.         

Sales teams that focus on relationships quickly learn the value of providing personal and professional value to clients rather than focusing solely on the sale.  

pic andrewThe impact of relationship building with your customers may surprise you. A recent study of 16 Global Account Teams by The Greenlight Research Institute in the US showed that these strategic, relationship-focused teams grew their accounts at least twice as fast as regular transactionally-focused account teams. This happened despite the fact that the relationship-focused teams worked on the company's largest, most mature accounts - the most difficult to expand rapidly because they were already so large. (Want a copy of this white paper; drop me a note at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Why? People do business with people they know and like. They don't do business with companies. And people like people who focus on their success. That means a sales call is a success if it advances your clients' cause and builds the relationship, not just if it closes a transaction. This won't be news to most salespeople, who excel at building relationships. What can be hard for many sales people is turning the ongoing conversation of a relationship into a transaction. The good news is that transactions often happen as a matter of course when sales teams focus on building great relationships with generosity.  

Generosity without Expectations

One aspect is to be prepared with three packets of generosity and no expectations. Do the homework required to go into each meeting with a list of three ways to make the person you're meeting successful. That's what's going to arrest people's attention and make them willing to develop a closer relationship with you. 

What kind of homework? I'm not talking about the usual research on the company and its need for what you're selling. Research the person! You're looking for personal reasons to care. I've found that LinkedIn is a superb way of finding out more about the person and their interests. If that doesn't work, speak to someone whom you know and who knows the person too. Find a way to introduce something that leverages your shared interests. Failing that, fall back to some deeply-held personal interests of your own. Talking about them will make you human, not just a sales person pushing a service, solution, product or a widget.

The direct result of focusing so intently on generosity, or even of a single email ping to renew a relationship, is to advance the relationship. But think of it as good sales karma for which you may be rewarded. Imagine the power of offering three packets of generosity. Mind you, they're not all personal. At least one should be purely professional, even if not related in any way to what you're trying to sell. For example, find out what the analysts say the company's goals or "big bets" are and what they have to achieve, and find a way to help the individual serve that cause. 

Become a Trusted Advisor.

Essentially, the key is to stay focused on your client's success. Spend the time it requires to really understand both personal and business challenges of the people that you are building those  relationships with. How, knowing this information can you and your organisation earn the revered accolade of becoming a Trusted Advisor? Ask more and more questions so that you and your team are able to understand more and more. This background will allow you become a trusted advisor as you a key value contributor to the person and the business.  

And Yet, the Path from Relationship to Transaction Can Be Hard.

After so much authentic concern for the success of your client, sales people can hesitate, reluctant to appear to be capitalising on the relationship and somehow tarnish it. But if you have truly built a great relationship, you can be exploratory about it. During a lull in the conversation, just ask: "You know what I do. How can I be of service to you?" The open endedness of that question will let you see if the ripeness is there for the transaction. If they reply "Tell me a little bit more," they've opened up the whole dialog about your products. Leaving it open ended gives the client the opportunity to shape the discussion so that they'll never feel pushed. And your relationship earns you the time to go deep, which can be required to differentiate today's complex solutions.   

Moving from relationship building to selling boils down to asking two questions: 

  1. Have I been truly generous to this individual, and earned enough trust that they're ready to listen to my "ask"?
  2. Do I 100% believe in the value of the solution I'm offering? If the answer to those two questions is yes, you'll often find a transaction further deepens your relationship with your customer.

Andrew Clare is Managing Partner of reLiance a business to business relationship marketing practice. I focus on improving client profitability through developing, implementing and measuring sustainable, collaborative business to business relationships.

Cell: +27 83 326 2451, E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Web: www.rassa.co.za, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/andrewclare


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