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Relationship Selling: How Cultivating Customer Relationships Helps Grow Your Bottom Line

Does your relationship with customers tend to be transactional? Focused primarily on providing helpful services or selling and maintaining products? Or do your B2B customer relationships go deeper than that?

The reason we ask is that, in today’s hyper-competitive market, developing and nurturing strong, productive relationships with key customers is more important than ever. Business marketing firm Drift offers several statistics that highlight the importance of relationship sales:

  • 65.2% of B2B buyers said that they found value in discussing their situations with salespeople. (CSO Insights)
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (The Annuitas Group)

It is also a popular topic of discussion online; when you search “relationship sales” or “relationship selling” you’ll find informative articles from diverse industry leaders ranging from Indeed and HubSpot to Forbes and Microsoft.

OK, so what is relationship sales? Basically, it is a technique that prioritizes building a connection, or relationship, with customers and potential customers to close sales — rather than focusing primarily on price and other details and features about the product or service. Here’s how HubSpot and Indeed define relationship sales:

Relationship selling is a technique in which a sales rep prioritizes their connection with the customer over all other aspects of the sale. They develop trust — usually by adding value and spending a lot of time with prospects — before attempting to close. (HubSpot)

Relationship selling is a technique that prioritizes building a connection with customers and potential buyers to close sales. Rather than solely using the price and other details to sell a product or service, the salesperson focuses on the interactions they have with their customers. Customers are more likely to foster loyalty toward a product or service when a salesperson establishes a personal relationship with them. This familiarity helps retain long-term customers and gain new ones because they feel valued by the company. (Indeed)

Relationship sales is often contrasted with traditional or “transactional” sales, described by Drift as “a quick, un-personalized form of selling that is usually suited to low-cost, commodity products. The product itself is the sales focus, rather than the customer and their needs.”

Drift offers a helpful chart detailing some of the key differences between transactional selling and relationship selling. For example, the objective in traditional selling is to take orders and make sales; whereas in relationship selling the objective is to become the preferred seller over the long haul.

Related Reading: How to Add Value for Customers with Insight Selling

Benefits of Relationship Selling

When it comes to relationship selling, we agree with these important takeaways offered in a Forbes article titled “Why Business Owners Need a Relationship-Selling Strategy.”

  • You will increase sales.
  • You will turn customers into advocates.

Prioritizing customer relationships as part of your organizational sales strategy has numerous additional benefits. These include:

  • Building trust
  • Generating positive brand image
  • Gaining valuable insights into current and future customer needs
  • Developing longer, stronger connections with key customers
  • Enjoying positive word of mouth from customers

Of course, one of the most notable bottom-line benefits of relationship selling is that it also contributes to increasing customer lifetime value.

Finally, Jim Cathcart, the author of “Relationship Selling” and an inductee in the Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame, nicely characterizes one of the greatest benefits of relationship selling, noting that: “The purpose of selling is to build profitable relationships. Without relationships there are only transactions and every day is just as hard as the one before it. With stronger sales relationships every day will be easier, more profitable and more fun!

Relationship Selling Tips, Techniques and Best Practices

“People want to be seen, heard and understood.” This is a relationship selling catchphrase advanced by CEO and sales expert Amy Volas, in a Built In article that asserts, “The best relationship sellers don’t charm buyers — they listen to them.” Active listening is consistently listed as one of the most important best practices in the world of relationship-based selling. Building trust is the ultimate goal and patience is an essential mindset.

The Built In article also suggests the following tips as part of a Guide to Relationship Selling:

  • Do extensive research on the buyer and their industry to serve as an expert on the call. The more well-read you are, the more personalized you can make the conversation.
  • Make the most of your small talk to build a personal connection.
  • Take the time to do a deep discovery. Don’t talk about the product features until you know what the buyer’s pain point is and why they want to solve it.
  • Create a mutually agreed-upon agenda to set expectations and align the call. The buyer should know what value they can expect out of the call.
  • Be an active listener. Ask the quietest person in the room for their opinion — sometimes they have the greatest impact on a deal.
  • Don’t force a deal. Looking out for the buyer’s best interest prevents churn and builds a stronger relationship for the future.
  • Follow up every call with an email that same day. Summarize the meeting, set up next steps and add value.
  • Keep in touch after the deal to maintain the relationship.

Relationship Selling | Putting it into Practice

It’s quite likely that relationship selling is something you are doing already, and it is almost certainly something that we all could be doing a little bit (or even a lot) better.

For organizations that aspire to reap the benefits of relationship-based selling, there are two primary options for putting it into practice. One is a self-taught pathway that involves tasking internal leaders with mastering the key disciplines of relationship selling and developing an implementation and execution strategy that is tailored to the unique needs of your organization.

The other is to partner with an experienced training provider who has a strong track record of collaborating with companies to sharpen their sales strategy in ways that build longer, stronger customer relationships.

Here at Global Partners Training, this has been at the heart of our mission for more than three decades. As pioneers in the art and science of building mutually profitable customer relationships, we are continuously improving our innovative, industry-leading sales and service training programs to help enterprise companies achieve these goals.

We are also always available to talk with you about the potential benefits of empowering your team with high-value sales training that is tailored to your company’s real-world challenges and opportunities. Unique among such training regimens, our programs include detailed methodologies for measuring success and calculating ROI.

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