You’re Selling a Relationship, Not Products
My friend Bruce Jacobs, the publisher of CustomRetailer, passed away in November. Bruce and I talked often of the industry—and particularly about “what is right” in our business.
What is right, in particular, is the success many companies have had in building grass-roots marketing programs through relationship selling. Sure, it sounds like another vapid consulting phrase: “relationship selling.” But it was the underpinning of Bruce’s success as a magazine publisher, and it is used successfully throughout all businesses. Bruce made a personal connection first.
If you’re interested in seeing the effects of relationship selling, read the tributes posted in Bruce’s name at www.customretailer.net. You’ll see comments like “Bruce made me laugh” and “Bruce had great stories.” Those are statements made by people who bought advertising from Bruce. He was selling ad space, one of the most illusive of products and, dare I say, more difficult to sell than a plasma TV is.
And how did he sell ads? By not selling ads at all. Rather, he established a working relationship first, and built on that relationship slowly and carefully.
That’s the essence of relationship selling: It’s not quick. It doesn’t rely on gimmicky sales techniques. It’s not about perfecting the “close.” It’s simply about seeing the big picture, taking the long view and working diligently to cultivate important relationships.
Relationship selling, in fact, isn’t selling (in the traditional sense) at all.
Traditional Selling Versus Relationship Selling
Traditional selling employs techniques to convey the benefits of a product. It employs methods to persuade the buyer. It helps move an item out of a warehouse and into a home. It’s an appropriate method for making infrequent sales to large groups of buyers. Car dealers, insurance salespeople, copier companies—they all use traditional selling techniques.
But frequent “sales” to a small group of buyers requires a different approach. And that’s where relationship selling excels. Certainly your friendly GMC salesman can’t develop relationships with his customers—and he shouldn’t. Such selling transactions are short and infrequent. Think about it: How often have you bought more than two cars from the same salesperson?