Is the Relationship Sales Model Still Valid?

Relationship Sales Model: RIP?. Thomas Phelps

There have been (and will always be) several "sales models" that claim to be the most effective and powerful model ever created. They come with promises that those who follow the model will close more sales, have more profit in their deals and become more successful by earning promotions, income, awards, and prizes.

One such sales model that is widely used is the Relationship Sales Model. This model teaches that the primary role of a sales representative is to establish a relationship with their clients.

The belief is that people like to buy from people they like and will find a reason to do so. Conversely, people will find a reason not to buy from sales reps who they do not like. Get liked, get more deals.

While building relationships is a powerful and beneficial objective for sales professionals to consider, many changes and emerging trends may have rendered following the Relationship Sales Model antiquated.

Customers are Busy

Relationships take time to build. While there is such a thing as "instant rapport," most customers are too busy to spend time meeting with a sales professional as often as the Relationship Sales Model suggests it takes to build a relationship.

Customers want to meet with a sales rep, get information and pricing then make a decision about whether or not the proposed solution is the right solution for them and their business needs.

Customers are Better Informed

Part of the Relationship Sales Model relies on being an expert in a particular aspect of the customer's business.

The model suggests that an informed and prepared representative gains both credibility and rapport by bringing information to the customer that is needed and is, for the most part, beyond the reach of the customer.

The Internet has changed many things in business and one of the most significant of these changes is how easy it is for customers to get access to information.

Customers are becoming or have become much better informed about their business needs, their vertical and horizontal industry and available solutions to their challenges.

Many customers no longer rely on their "sale rep friends" to inform them. In fact, an uninformed customer is often seen as a low-value employee. In order to increase job security, customers are continually increasing their knowledge base and, therefore, lowering their dependency on sales professionals.

Over Saturation of Relationship Sales Approach

Like it or not, you are not the only sales rep calling on your accounts. Not only are your competitors making calls, but representatives of many different industries are visiting, calling and emailing the same decision makers that you are.

Since the Relationship Sales Model is so widely used, customers are quite used to sales reps and their attempts to build a relationship with them. So familiar, in fact, that customers have grown tired and weary of reps stating "I don't want to just sell you something; I want to build a long relationship with you." As soon as a customer hears that, they probably begin thinking "This rep wants to sell me something!"

So Where's a Rep to Turn?

There is no doubt that sales models like the Relationship Sales Model are valuable and important tools for reps; both in their initial and long-term training. But the reliance on one model is a dangerous and limiting career move.

Sales professionals are best served learning multiple sales models and building the acumen to differentiate when to use known models. This is much like closing skills and techniques. Rely on one and you will only close sales opportunities that call for that specific type of close. Use just one selling model and you effectively run the risk of eliminating your chances of earning a customer who could have been made if a different approach was used.

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