Selling is an art form. The ability to look at a client and see a solution to a problem they have is a gift in many ways. Too many people in sales spend hours cultivating a relationship with a potential customer, wooing them, so to speak.
Ultimately, the ‘relationship seller’ will have trouble keeping their eye on the prize: the deal. They get so focused on the relationship and doing everything possible to maintain it, that they forget that the point of the wooing is to close a sale.
In my eBook, “Authenticity and Redefining Relationship Selling,” I share a notion that some might find difficult to swallow: masterful selling isn’t about relationships; it’s about authenticity.
How I came to my conclusions about relationship selling
An ‘A-Ha Moment’ in 2006, while in the midst of a sales call with a rep I was working with, brought everything I’d been thinking about relationship selling into specific relief. I realized, as he was losing the client’s interest during the investigative process, that the reason why he couldn’t get through to the customer was that he was being inauthentic.
That isn’t to say that the rep was lying or misleading the customer. He was, however, concerned about keeping the customer on that pedestal that relationship sellers are prone to placing their leads on—a pedestal that leaves them on unequal footing, giving the customer all the power. But eventually, pedestals wobble and topple over and the relationship can effectively end.
I realized that, by working from a place of authenticity instead, a salesperson can control the process in a way that leads the customer to the solution and the realization that it is the right one, rather than convincing them of that fact.
What is authenticity?
Authenticity is in each and every one of us, if we would only let it out! Fears about how others will perceive us, particularly customers, limit our ability to be authentic in the process.
- Authenticity allows us to challenge the perceptions or assumptions a client may have, through frank and fair conversation.
- Authenticity allows the seller and the customer to stand on equal footing because you, as the seller, aren’t as concerned with your likeability as finding a solution that works to solve your customer’s problem. Your focus is on that, rather than whether or not someone likes your personality.
Remember: “This relationship based image is a positive notion but make no mistake: no matter how solid your "relationship" is with the buyer, they are only one sales call away from switching, if a competitor demonstrates a more effective solution that satisfies the buyer's needs, regardless of relationship.” (quote from the eBook)
Can authenticity beat relationship selling?
In a heartbeat. But don’t just take my word for it. There is some wonderful research discussed by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson that I share in the eBook that clearly demonstrates how an authentic seller, which they refer to as a ‘Challenger’, can be so much more effective because they come from a position of authority. A Challenger knows they have the right solution, so it’s not a question of ‘convincing’ the customer, but rather of showing them the path and letting them follow it or not. A sale lost is not, as I demonstrate in the text, always a loss!
Ultimately, when you have a sales process, or sales operating system, as I like to call it, you can be authentic because you’ve removed emotion from the deal. It’s not about people liking you; it’s about them liking your solutions. Relationships will always be a part of the sales process, but they should be a byproduct, not the means to the sale. Instead, being authentic and controlling the process is the clear path to masterful selling.
David Aplin Group is a private family and employee owned Canadian staffing agency founded in Alberta in 1975, recognized as one of Canada's most accomplished recruiting firms. Our mission is to positively impact lives. Blog author, Jay Edwards, is Aplin's VP of Business Development based in Calgary.