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Forming Strong Relationships in Sales Doesn’t Always Equal Friendships

There’s a big difference between developing a strong sales relationship and being pleasant, friendly and service driven. One requires no extra time on your part, one can potentially become all time consuming. (Research, reports, diligence, follow up and so on.)


If I hear it one more time, there is a chance I may puke. “Now remember, what’s most important is to develop a strong sales relationship with your prospects and customers.” What does that even mean? What’s the how in that statement; the tactical, “Now show me how to do that?”

A Great Salesperson Builds Strong Sales Relationships

To become a great salesperson you need to foster and build strong relationships with your prospects and clients. The stronger the relationships that you build with your customers, the easier it will be to sell them, serve them and support them. While this is certainly true, essential and indisputable in some cases and professions (doctors, coaches, therapists, certain transactions with long selling cycles, to name a few) it is not an absolute principal that I would endorse in every situation and can actually hurt your selling efforts.

Here’s why. Some people are just not interested in a relationship. Some people want to get in, make a purchase and get out, keeping it purely transactional. After all, when was the last time you went out to lunch with the person who fills your gas tank, your pharmacist, your local cable provider or the rep who you speak with when calling your phone company?

There’s a big difference between developing a relationship and being pleasant, friendly and service driven. One requires no extra time on your part, one can potentially become all time consuming. (Research, reports, diligence, follow up and so on.)

Strong Sales Relationships Aren’t Personal

Just to be clear, I’m separating sales and marketing (networking) activities as well because when you’re truly looking to build a relationship, then you have a few of your personal needs and agenda wrapped up in the sale. No good.

Look at this from a different angle for a moment. Lets say you sell insurance. Before you sold insurance, did you ever go out to lunch or meet on a social level with your insurance agent? How about the person who sold you your home, copier, or car?

So what is ultimately my point? Rather than you assuming that your prospects want a relationship, ask them.

Ask a question to uncover what their expectations are regarding the type of relationship they want with the salesperson such as, “What are your expectations of the person you are going to buy from?” “If you were in my shoes, what would I want to know about you that would help earn your business?”

Personable and Friendly Differ From Being Friends but are No Less Important Distinctions

You Can Be Personable and Friendly, But You Don’t Have to Be “Friends”

These questions assist you in crafting the perfect presentation or relationship, every time.

We all have acquaintances and then we have friends. The difference is in our expectations of those in our lives. An acquaintance is someone who you know will be kind and personable when you see them. They also might suit your needs when you need them. But when things get personal, they are probably not going to be the one that you want to depend on.

When we talk about a strong sales relationship, it is the same. When you develop a sales relationship with someone, they can relay on you to give them the best exchange and have your best monetary interest at heart, or at least that is the goal. Are they going to help you move, watch your children, or be there when you car gets a flat? No, but that is not what either of you are looking for.

Strong Sales Relationships are Built on Trust

In the end, a strong sales relationship is built on trusting that someone is trustworthy. That is the tie that binds and all that the symbiotic relationship needs on both ends. You can trust them, they can trust you.


Jeb Blount’s Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal helps guide salespeople through the many hurdles that many struggle with in building authentic relationships with prospects. Download our free Sales EQ Book Club Guide now. HERE

About the author

Keith Rosen

Keith Rosen

Keith Rosen is fanatical about your success. He is a globally recognized authority on…

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