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I came across a really interesting article the other day, and something in it has been bugging me ever since.

 

The article itself is fantastic and I’d actually completely encourage you to take a read if you have time:

 

Selling is not about Relationships

 

If you don’t have time, let me give you the Cliffs Notes. Several years ago, the Sales Executive Council conducted a worldwide study of sales rep productivity. The study spanned multiple industries and included over 6,000 reps. The results showed that there are five types of sales people (excerpt taken from the article):

 

  • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
  • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
  • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
  • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
  • Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

 

 

In their study, Challengers far out-performed every other sales type in terms of directly attributed revenue. And the kicker? Relationship Builders came dead last.

 

Now, I’m not about to dispute their work. I really like it. I think it poses some important questions – especially as the sales landscape continues to shift.

 

What’s been nagging at me is the concept of being a Relationship Builder who isn’t also a Challenger. If you aren’t someone who is willing to save customers from themselves as passionately as you would save them from external influences, then how much do you truly value the relationship?

 

It’s all well and good to show up and make a customer feel the love. I absolutely believe that this is important. For me this is one of the key building blocks of customer loyalty. It shows a customer that you truly value both their business and them as individuals. But you can’t only do this. If you are making people feel good but not actually adding any value to their business then you’re not a Relationship Builder OR a Challenger; you’re a Yes Man.

 

So I guess I will challenge part of the article’s premise, but only insofar as I also want to challenge the way we look at the concept of relationship management.

 

If you are in a customer service role (and let’s face it, that’s 90% of what sales is), a large part of your job is to do what’s best for your customer. But that doesn’t mean giving them everything they want, exactly how they want it – I mean, can you imagine if our parents did that? I’d still be eating nothing but red frogs and ice cream today.

 

Just saying yes to your customers all the time doesn’t actually do them much good. If you knew your customer was going down a misguided path, how could you stand by and say yes? Or worse, help them down that path for the sake of a sale? Our job is to love our customers, and sometimes that means tough love.

 

We have a responsibility to our customers to be Relationship Builders Who Challenge.


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