Relationship Selling is Dead


Is your selling strategy based upon building solid relationships through the sales rep’s likeability factor? If so, you are getting a declining return on the sales rep’s ability to get new business or even maintain existing customers. Most sales reps are very high in the red or relationship quadrant. (Whole Brain Thinking) (Herrmann) They have good people skills and can win others over (WOO ability) quickly. The strategy behind WOOing is that they are trying  to build trust. The assumption is that if someone likes me, they will trust me.

The likeability sales strategy or relationship selling tactic is breathing it’s last breath. In today’s business environment, the majority of decision makers don’t have time to discover if they like you before they know  what value you offer. Today’s decision maker does not have the time for building interpersonal relationships (red quadrant) unless there is an obvious value to be gained. The traditional relationship selling model of being liked first assumes the likeability factor will then lead to the opportunity to show value.

That model has been turned upside down. Today’s buyer wants sales reps to lead with value first. In the process of establishing value or serving the customer well, the buyer will find out that they really do like the sales rep. Buyers want value first in everything. Every meeting should be a valuable experience for the buyer. To create a valuable experience, the seller must understand the prospect’s/customer’s business, know their issues/problems and potential ways to solve them (either through his/her company or by referring another company), and be innovative.  The sales reps needs to demonstrate ROI and have the data to back it up. A demonstrated proven process and a list of loyal customers carries more weight than being likeable.


Every meeting the sales rep needs to come prepared to further understand the customer’s business and their decision criteria. The meeting should be totally focused on the buyer’s goals and objectives versus the seller focused on his/her objectives. In doing so, the sales rep will build trust. Buyers do business with those they trust.

Where interpersonal skills play a strong role (relationship selling) is in the process of delivering value. It is always more enjoyable to do business with those you like versus doing business with those you dislike. But in today’s market, I see decision makers doing business with people they trust but don’t necessarily like that much. The decision criteria of trust and competence/capability always trumps likeability. Read The Speed of Trust by Steven M.R. Covey for more information on this fact.

A simple way to begin adding value is to begin each meeting by asking the buyer/decision maker what they want to accomplish during the meeting. Ask what a successful meeting look like. Selling should be a 4 quadrant approach: discussing data/facts (blue quadrant), process/details  (green quadrant), feelings/others (red quadrant) and focused on a better future or innovation (yellow quadrant) versus just focusing on the red quadrant of relationship to build value.


Jill Konrath has a short video on this subject. Death of Relationship Selling

Adding value begins with you being a person off value. This means that you must be continually learning – reading books, listening to audio on leadership, business issues, sales skills and how to be an effective listener. Even reading history gives you a broader understanding of human nature and what people value. Read a book a month will broaden your mind to see more possibilities and new ways to engage in meaningful dialogue with your prospects and customers. You don’t know what you don’t know until you start learning. Be an engaged learner and you will be a person on value.

For a free consultation on how to incorporate the whole brain model into your business, contact me to schedule a 1 hour call.


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