Relationship Selling To Maximize Your Business’s Potential.

Relationship Selling To maximize Your Business's Potential.



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In this fast-paced, data-and-digital driven economy, dexterity with smartphone screens and their apps has become today’s euphemism for “customer relationships”.  The currency of trust, however, retains it’s value and will always be a prerequisite for lasting sales relationships.

Multitudes are caught up in the euphoria of the online sale, where an impulse can quickly evolve from an inquiry to an addition in the shopping cart and subsequent next-day delivery.  This paradigm works just fine for many products.  For others with a heftier price tag, money-back guarantees and in-store credits may assuage the initial anxiety of a non-physical buy.

For those following the trend, the social explosion has tangible merits.  Whereas one may preliminarily sneer at the detachment of the social online process, upon deeper thought we see that online interaction between the Company and prospects provides an incredible opportunity for them to foster trust and credibility with one another.  Combine this opportunity with social media’s close relative – data – and we have a new paradigm for the relationship- building process; specifically, that the combination of social media and data usage can provide a foundation upon which to build trust.

However, the modern-day sales process doesn’t end there.  Whereas a prerequisite for the buying decision has always been the familiarity and bonding- type courtship, at some point the prospect will demand face-to-face interaction before agreeing to purchase.   If the relationship has been fostered correctly, at this point they want to trust you, and refer to their integrations with you and the Company to judge the value of their intuition, hopefully convincing themselves that they are making a wise decision to go with you.

Trust is a currency that has obvious pervasive qualities, themselves driven no doubt by our human proclivity to anxiety, worry, and our lack of faith in the capacity in others to extend goodwill.

A cursory mental run through the sales mantras of prior years and generations will reveal the constant message - to give the customer what they want.  This ideal has never been extinguished; it just hasn’t been given its rightful place in the sales process since the 80’s.

We suggest that trust can transform “one-of” purchase decisions into long-term relationships and referral partners.  Hence the need to investigate "Relationship Selling”.

It stands to reason that people are more inclined to make purchase decisions from those they trust. This lesson, understandably, springs out in the preface of most business textbooks; however, the key to successfully executing this truth in today’s business landscape is in determining how best to combine today’s social tools with time-proven methods of trust-building to build reciprocating trust and to usher prospects into the sales pipeline.

For business owners, long-term relationships resulting in regular sales and referrals are as attainable as they have ever been, because customers long for it and desire to reward owners who positively engage.  Tell me a customer who would not appreciate a hello from the owner, as well as some customized attention while (insert your product or service here) is being prepared / packaged?

Customers and prospects are looking for trust.  They may be initially inspired by the ease of the online experience, the look of your store, or the efficacy of your operation. Trust, however, will bring them back and compel them to refer.

Relationship Selling involves establishing trust.  If the business owner can build trust, that sincere relationship spawned from it will result in higher sales, stronger community profiles, and more referrals over time.

So how do you do this?  Here are some keys to driving Relationship Selling at your business?



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  1. Know your customer verifiers

Customer verifiers are those things that accelerate customer interaction from one of indifference to engaged.  Know the customers special dates, such as birthdays, the names of all the children and where they go to school- anything that promotes discussion of what’s important to them.  Also retain knowledge of their hobbies, and be able to converse about the things that interest them.  People like to talk, and they are intelligent enough to see that you’re genuinely interested in listening to them.

At no point in these points of contact are you trying to “up-sell”.  John Lowery, an accomplished salesperson from Carlsbad, California, recalls in his E-Zine article, Relationship Selling, a sales friend of his who, upon reflecting on his successful sales career at a Fortune 100 Company, advised that his people didn’t buy his product; they bought him.[1]  People, upon noticing your genuine interest, will attach to you and will respond favourably.  The cost to them of your genuine nature and concern is their time – a cost that their willing to pay because the utility to them easily exceeds what they have to give up.  This becomes a perpetuating cycle that naturally builds trust.  Try attaining this result from mailers and spam emails!

You won’t know your customer verifiers until you talk to them and until they trust you enough to provide this personal information.  These verifiers are integral to the fostering of trust and to recognizing when you’re close to a sale and possible long-term relationship.


  1. Humanize your Selling Strategy

 An amplification of number 1, sales strategy today among business owners and marketing personnel must center on the customer.  Over the course of building an envelope manufacturing company from a fledgling $200,000 turnover per year garage operation to a $100 Million per year Titan, Harvey Mackay, CEO of MackayMitchell Envelope Company, developed the oft quoted “Mackay 66”.

Mackay advised his sales people to serve the customers, get to know them, and take care of them.  He told them to do this by finding out 66 things that reverberated with the customer and elicited engagement.  These things would be catalysts to engender trust.  It works for him, and his salespeople tend not to argue.

This is how you build your business.  If Mackay can build a Company in a commoditized, low-margin, hyper-competitive industry, with an average yearly growth rate of 18% and with 234 competitors nation-wide, then business owners would be well advised to consider his advice.[2]


  1. You are your brand.

 In today’s economy, brands are people first.  This may be because so much is done online that, consciously or not, those on the other side of the screen have only their online interaction with you and the Company to assess the quality of the product or service you’re selling.  Customers take their relationship with a brand personally, asserts Martin Zwilling. [3] Take for example the smartphone you use – you’re attached to it, and you purchase the upgrades because you have a brand relationship with it.  Many “love” their mobile phones, because there’s a personal component to the smartphone.  Contrast this with their brand relationship with their bank, and the brand radar flatlines – there’s no personal attachment there.  There’s a direct relationship between the personal attachment to a brand and loyalty to it.  If you the business owner can establish and build personal loyalty in the minds of your customers to your brand, then you’ll have loyalty.

Businesses at all stages of development need to realize that brand perception is becoming more and more driven by relationships.  Therefore, the stronger the relationships - and by extension the stronger the trust - with customers, the stronger the brand perception and consequent loyalty to it will be.

To underscore the importance of Relationship Selling, Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske, in their book “The Human Brand” state that humans are very perceptive, and make quick judgments about other people’s intents towards them (warmth) as well as the capability of carrying out those intents (competence).  Thus your brand needs to project both warmth and competence for loyalty to blossom. [4]

Relationship Selling should encompass the sales strategy of businesses today.  Doing so will pace them ahead of many competitors who are willing to remain content with the results of transactional relationships at the expense of healthy profits.



Nicholas Kilpatrick is a partner at the accounting firm of Burgess Kilpatrick  in Vancouver, B.C.  He concentrates his practice on assisting business owners with accounting services, tax and estate planning and overall business development.

[1] Lowery, John, Relationship Selling, E-Zine articles.

[2] Mackey, Harvey, Humanize Your Selling Strategy, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Publishing, March 1988


[3] Zwilling, Martin, Customer Relationships Now Drive Brand Perceptions, www., November 8, 2013

[4] Malone, Chris and Fiske, Susan T., The Human Brand, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

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