There are four levels of relationships salespeople can have with buyers.  Consider the level of relationship you have with those you attempt to sell.  The first level of relationship is the vendor.  A vendor is anyone who has a product or service to sell.  The second level of relationship is a preferred vendor.  This is someone who has been specifically invited to offer his or her product or service.  The third level of relationship is referred to as an assistant buyer, defined as someone who has the ear of the buyer and is invited to make recommendations regarding the products or services to be purchased.  The fourth and most sought after level of selling relationship is that of a partner.  A partner works side by side with the buyer to write the specifications for the products and services being purchased and is part of the buying decision.  The partner will typically make the sale unless their product is not the right solution.

Consider the following exercise to improve the relationship level you have with your customers and prospects.  Identify the one customer with which you have the best relationship.  Then evaluate everyone else against your best customer relationship.  Give each customer and prospect a ranking of one through ten.  Then put together a strategy that will allow you to develop a “ten” relationship with each customer and prospect.  In preparing your plan to improve the relationship with each of your customers and prospects, you might consider including some of the following ideas:

  1. Understand the depth and breadth of the buyers responsibilities.
  2. Know the difficulties and challenges of the buyer.
  3. Become familiar with their likes, dislikes, hobbies, interests and family.
  4. Spend productive time with them.
  5. Find subtle ways to teach and train them to know and do their job better.
  6. Become their confidant.
  7. Compliment them and be their cheerleader.
  8. Truly care about their success and be part of it.

It is possible to make a sale when you don’t have a great relationship with the buyer.  However, making the sale will take a lot more work and a lot more time.  Let me share an example of what I mean.

A few years ago I was building a deck on our family cabin.  My sister came to help me put down the deck boards.  I gave her a drill and a box of three inch deck screws, showed her how to line up the boards, and drive the screw thru the deck board into the joist.  After a couple of attempts she was doing just fine.  I went around to the other side of the cabin and continued screwing down my deck boards.  About ten minutes later my sister came over to me and said she was unable to drive the screws as quickly as I had shown her and wanted to know what she was doing wrong.  I walked back over to where she was working and she showed me the screw that took her five minutes to drive into the deck.  I told her I had no idea why it took her so long and then picked up her drill to drive a screw into the deck board and see for myself.  As I picked up her drill I noticed that the thumb lever for the drill was in the reverse position.  Without saying a word, and without her noticing, I put the drill in the forward position and drove a screw into the deck in about two seconds.  She couldn’t believe it and mumbled that it must be a “guy” thing.  Then I told her the drill had been in reverse and said that I had never known anyone who had ever driven a three-inch deck screw into a deck with the drill in reverse.  Hard work, perseverance and determination were responsible for her success.

Yes, you can make a sale if you don’t have a great relationship with the buyer, but it is about as difficult as driving a three-inch deck screw with the drill in reverse.  Making a sale to a prospect that you have a partnership relationship with is like driving a three-inch deck screw with the drill in forward (quick, easy, efficient).  Other degrees of sales relationships might resemble driving a screw by hand.  It can be done, but requires more effort, can be painful, and takes more time than using a drill in the forward position.

If you want to make more sales with less effort, build the relationship first.  Once you have developed the relationship, the sale will come with much less effort.  Simple rule:  put the time and effort into the relationship.  Too often, salespeople forget the relationship and only put time and effort into making the sale.  The proper tool for effective selling is building the relationship.  Hammering a prospect to buy your product is not effective selling.  To go back to the analogy of driving a three-inch deck screw; first spend the time to put your drill in the forward position, then driving the screw will be quick, easy and efficient.