Andy Paul wrote a terrific piece on relationships (visit TheSalesHouse to get some of his thinking). There is a lot of discussion, pro and con, about the importance of relationships—but little of it drives any clarity about what a relationship is, and why it matters.
There are the “old timers,” who view relationships as key, but define relationships as friendship. Their approach is to exploit the “relationship,” but not the value they create in helping the customer achieve their goals. They cite the years of “relationship,” the lunches, golf games, birthday cards to kids, etc. They trade on this friendship, expecting to get preferred treatment in the sales situation. (Sure doesn’t sound like the kind of friendship that I value.)
There’s the polar extreme, those who don’t believe relationships are important or meaningful in sales. Often, these are those with the assembly line version of selling, optimizing our process, treating the customer as a widget they move through the process—lead, SDR, Demo, Account Manager, Specialist, Customer Experience Team… The customer is an object upon which we execute our selling process, working the numbers.
Neither of those extremes is about relationships, neither of these extremes understands the importance of relationships with our customers.
Andy poses that relationships are about “connection.” Not the kind we brag about in LinkedIn (how many connections we have).
Connection has a context—it may be around a certain issue, a certain initiative, something common we each want to achieve.
Connection is about meaning—it is about creating value with each other.
Connection involves an active interest in learning—both our individual positions and points of views, but in learning something new, moving forward, making progress.
Connection is about caring—it is about human being engaging with each other, perhaps not agreeing, but about caring enough to listen, learn, and respect each other.
Relationships may involve friendship, but don’t need to. And true friendships are not about exploiting that friendship as leverage over one another.
Connection is critical to our effectiveness as sales people. If we can’t connect with our customers, we will never be able to help them achieve their goals, as we achieve ours.
Connection is critical within our own organizations, if as managers we can’t connect with our people, we can’t help them maximize performance. If we can’t connect with our colleagues, peers and managers, we can’t align to achieve our shared goals.
I worry about those who believe relationships are to be manipulated. They don’t understand what connection is about.
I worry about this who believe relationships are unimportant, that sales is a mechanistic process, focused on optimizing our own efficiency, but not worried about connecting with their customers. If this is what drives success, it means we don’t need people involved in the process and our respective bots, interacting, can be far more effective than humans could ever be.
I worry about those who don’t value relationships, it is through these connections that we learn, grow, improve, and achieve.
Relationships are about connection.
Connecting with our customers our people our communities is what makes us better as individuals, organizations, and a society.