Commercial relationships are in some ways different than pure personal relationships. Both require that you are known, liked, and trusted, but commercial relationships also require the creation of economic value. This continual need to create new value has changed commercial relationships.
The fact that commercial relationships require that you create economic value in no way diminishes the need to be known, liked, and trusted. It does mean that being likeable, taking people to dinner, and buying them seats at sporting events and concerts is not likely going to be enough to acquire or retain your client’s business.
The idea that there is no overlap between commercial and personal relationships is to believe that these relationships are mutually exclusive, that you can have one or the other, that there is some insurmountable wall between the two. Having both is better than having either by itself.
Some of the best relationships you have are likely to be commercial relationships. That client you worked closely with on a major change initiative. The one you helped by taking the lead on a project when they were helping their ill spouse. The client who had a messy family issue and needed someone to listen, and maybe provide counsel. You have relationships that are both personal and commercial with the people within your own company as well. Thankfully.
Many of your clients want a personal relationship. They hired you, and now you are a member of their team. They want to have meals with you. They want to text you. They want to hear your stories, and they want to tell you theirs. To believe otherwise is to underestimate the power of intimacy when it comes to trust (See Charlie Green’s Trust-Based Selling). It is also to ignore at least 50,000 years of human evolution.
Your clients also want a commercial relationship that spans into personal. They want someone with the business acumen and situational knowledge to help them see around corners. They want to work with someone who will prevent them from being harmed, and who will help them capitalize on opportunities. This person is going to care enough about them that they are always thinking about what comes next even when they aren’t.
In complex B2B commercial relationships, personal relationships are largely unavoidable. How do you work with people without speaking with them? How do avoid the relationship maintenance that is sharing the conversations that make us human, the personal conversations, the chatter about sports, television, family, children, and all the other things, trivial or important?
Were the personal relationship components of commercial relationships to disappear, there would no longer be a need to strive to be a trusted advisor. There would be no reason to be someone worth doing business with, someone your clients prefer above all others.
Evolution plays by a certain set of rules. It unfolds over time, including and transcending what came before into something new. The increased need to economic value creation and business acumen and situational knowledge and insight is additive to known, liked, and trusted.
This evolution is making selling more difficult for two groups of people. First are the salespeople who lack the ability to create economic value; they are being left behind, disintermediated, and, in some cases, facing extinction. Second are the salespeople who struggle to create the type of personal connection that allows them to develop the relationships that allow them to initiate the kind of changes that create greater economic value.
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