When you are being told to build rapport and strengthen your prospect and customer relationships, how do you know what the right kind of relationship you should be building? Should you become friends? What should you do when the sale or deal process is over? What do you say if the prospect or customer invites you out for a drink? Should you continue to hang out? There’s a lot of questions and it’s often a fine line between professional and personal.

Ultimately, sales relationships shouldn’t be about trying to become ‘mates’ with each other. It’s a professional job, so relationships should remain professional. Sales relationships should focus on trust and expertise. Of course, sometimes you’ll need to wine and dine with a prospect, or go for a round of golf, but always have in the back of your mind that this is a professional meeting. You wouldn’t speak to that person about internal corporate ongoings and you wouldn’t talk the same way you would if you were with your mates at the pub. The relationship will always be based on you hoping to make money from them.

There’s plenty of content out there that talks about relationship selling (integrating yourself into a prospects personal life, and vice versa). And some salespeople do it very well. Others consider it as a big no-no.

Drift defines relationship selling as: “Relationship selling is a sales strategy where the seller places their relationship or connection with the customer above other factors, such as price. Trust is a key element – the seller will focus on delivering value for the customer over and above any sort of “quick sale.”

Relationship sales are often used for high-ticket items where customers might want to spend more time thinking about the product or service. The seller would wait until they’ve built up a trusting relationship before attempting to close the sale.”

Regardless of whether that approach works for you, building strong sales relationships draws a lot of comparisons with dating – if it works out, the goal is you get a sale or a partner.

The dating game of sales relationships

Dating and sales relationships have a lot of similarities. It can be a tough time to navigate through them. As you would with dating, it’s important to pick up on non-verbal signals as well as verbal signals to get a better understanding of what the prospect wants and is thinking. Getting that right will give you a much better indication of how the deal is going to go, what they will say to their colleagues about you and the business, and how to proceed.

In the first instance, don’t overshare. You wouldn’t do that on a first date either. Leave a bit to the imagination and keep them intrigued. In the sales relationship, you want to think about how you can provide value at every interaction. If you tell all too early, your prospect won’t have a reason to speak with you again.

Lastly, you want to know where we stand. As with dating, you don’t want to be spending time chasing someone that simply isn’t interested. In sales, time is valuable, and you could be missing out on a sale if you are spending too long courting an uninterested prospect. All the time spent chasing a not-so-serious prospect is time taken away from other valuable deals in your pipeline. So it’s important to know when to draw the line and let the relationship fizzle out. 

In either situation, dating or sales, if it doesn’t work out, it’s very unlikely you’ll be friends afterwards. Don’t agree, let us know!

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