TYPES OF RELATIONSHIPS
A sales professional can only have one of two types of relationships with their clients. They are:
- A Transactional Relationship or
- A Trusted Advisor Relationship
Some of the statements that I have made in the previous chapter might lead you to think that I believe transactional relationships are bad or inferior. I am not trying to imply that at all. Both types of relationships have their appropriate place in the world of sales.
However, for most corporations and consulting firms, the transactional relationship is not conducive to the longevity and success of the sales professional. For the purposes of this book, I am going to focus on the trusted advisor relationship, as this is the cornerstone of relationship selling.
Once again, I stress that every client-facing individual in a corporation, and especially in a consulting organization, is a sales professional. Because of their actions and the relationship they establish or do not establish with the client has a bearing on whether your organization will secure the follow-on work of the current project and/or the next opportunity that comes along.
The classic example of a transactional relationship is one that you find in grocery stores, supermarkets etc. You go there to buy a certain commodity, and you do not particularly care who sells it to you as long as they are fast, accurate and courteous.
The classic example of a trusted advisor relationship is a good insurance agent. If they are truly good, you will never buy any type of hazard insurance from another company, regardless of the difference in price.
I have that relationship with my insurance agent, Steve, and his co-agent Joanne. They have been my agent for everything for more than a decade. They know everything about my life. They insure my life, my house, my vehicles, my yacht, my business, and everything else. Ask me if they are the cheapest in all cases.
The answer is most definitely NO.
However, they are always there when I need them. They understand my needs and my personality. They know most of my quirks, at least the insurance related ones. Believe me, when I say that I have many quirks.
For example, even though I know my blanket policy covers any vehicle I purchase, I will not drive a car off a lot or a yacht out of a marina until I have proof of coverage for the new purchase in my hand.
I know it is silly, but it is a personality quirk; what can I say? I cannot count how many times Joanne has faxed or emailed me paperwork at odd hours just because I asked for something.
A trusted advisor relationship is very hard to attain. It requires a lot of patience and constant effort. It requires absolute and unquestionable integrity on your part. Moreover, it can be lost or compromised in the blink of an eye.
A trusted advisor does not try to sell a product; he/she always tries to solve his clients problems. There is never one solution to any problem. The solution is usually a combination of one or all of the following: strategies, processes, technologies and people.
You need to achieve the ability to collaborate with the client and help resolve business problems affecting the organization as a whole.
Easier said than done, you say. You are right. I never said this was easy. In fact, I specifically stated that this would take a lot of patience and constant effort.
I would also like to stress that a trusted advisor relationship is not the same as a buddy relationship. Sure, I rely on my friends to provide me with ad hoc advice. In fact, we all do. However, would you let your buddy diagnose your health problems or do you go to a trusted source (a qualified doctor). Now think about how you select a new doctor. You very rarely go to the first doctor you stumble across unless it is an emergency or an urgent matter that cannot wait.
You typically ask your friends, neighbors, or relatives for their experiences with various doctors, and try to go see the doctor who they recommend. The point I am trying to make is that you use your friends and buddies for advice. However, you rely on the trusted and qualified professional (the doctor) to help resolve your problem.
Therefore, it is most important for the client to perceive you more as the person who they can trust to provide the appropriate solution and less as the person who is their friend or buddy.
The modern sales professional, especially one that wants to follow the doctrine of relationship selling, must move away from the traditional transactional sales solution.
The client should view you as someone on whom they can rely to help them succeed, no matter what the circumstances. You need to evolve from a person who recommended and sold systems or devices to a person who collaborates with the client and helps resolve business problems affecting the organization as a whole, or a specific problem that affects that client personally.
When you achieve this, you will have morphed in your clients eyes. He/she will no longer view you as a sales person but as a trusted advisor.
Additional information on Relationship Selling can be found in Relationship Selling The Fine Art of Consultative Sales. ISBN: 1432715003.