I know many of the voices you hear regularly tell you that relationship selling is dead. I know they mean well, but the choice of words is all wrong. What people really mean when they say relationship selling is dead is that is order-taking, non-value-creating sales behaviors are no longer useful. Right now, there is nothing more important than your relationships, but you must create relationships of value (something I call Level 4 Value Creation™).
A great product is no longer enough to win the day. Everyone can now make a great product, and we are in such a creative period that even intellectual property rights aren’t enough to protect your lead.
Experience, and by that I mean differentiating on great service and support, is no longer enough to provide you with a competitive advantage. There are a lot of obstacles to providing a great experience, but anyone with the will to do so can easily replicate a great experience.
Business-to-business sales organizations differentiated on tangible business results, or return on investment, for the last few decades. But now any sales organization can show you their spreadsheet analysis and estimated ROI. It’s no longer a differentiator, and you can argue all you want about the differences between your spreadsheet and your competitor’s.
Where does this leave us now? The first three levels of value are no longer enough. To differentiate yourself and your offering, you have to transcend those early levels of value while also including them. You have to get the 4th level where your relationship is the value.
You have to create more value, not only in your solution, but also during every client interaction. You have to care deeply about helping your client succeed, because your caring is the foundation of the trust that is the first part of “trusted advisor.” You have to be proactive in your delivery of value at every stage of the buyer’s journey and your sales process. And you have to be accountable for your results.
To reach Level 4, you have to provide insights based on your business acumen and your situational knowledge (or experience, if you prefer). You have to help your client build a future-oriented platform that allows them to grow and transcend their current results. And you have to operate like part of your client’s management by focusing your efforts on their most strategic outcomes.
If that sounds like a high hurdle to get over, it is. But that is the nature of relationships; they take an enormous investment. But selling is indeed about the relationship, and don’t let anybody tell you anything different.