Relationship Selling Toward Greater Profitability in the Future

Is America in trouble?  On a daily basis we are being required to answer that question both subconsciously and openly by today’s media pundits.  Recent economic reports have shown vulnerabilities in the United States economic engine including everything from manufacturing to consumer spending. 

Even the latest positive economic news brings another sequence of gloom. For example, the job rate ticked down in July, 2011; however, American businesses are not creating enough jobs. With unemployment still hovering over 9%, most people do not feel there  is much to be happy about related to the job outlook.    

One of the smartest ways to retool the economy is by selling more products and services to domestic and international markets.  Therefore, the art of selling becomes a critical competitive advantage to organizations that want to sustain profitability over the long-term. Selling is a common denominator for every business. No matter what business you are in, you must sell your product or services to customers. 

Yet, the concept of selling is related to creating value for customers.  When a bakery gives an extra donut in a dozen, the company is adding value and fosters better relationships with customers.  Given these realities, selling is a people-oriented business that addresses the customer value proposition. 

Relationship skills can make or break important connections.  Dr. Dave Hinkes, co-author of Selling by Objectives: The Handbook for More Profitability in the 21st Century, often advises his Fortune 500 clients to stay connected with their customers.  Dr. Hinkes and I worked hard on this project.

 

We further prescribe a relationship selling model based on several key elements which include branding, quality, flexibility, reliability, creativity, simplicity, efficiency, and price. Dr. Hinkes adds: “If you can practice or role play your responses to these objectives originating from any source, then you will find that you will be closing more deals, building more wealth, and saving time and effort in the process.” 

For businesses, it is important to understand human behavior in order to building lasting relationships. Therefore, relationship selling and sales management are interconnected. Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, note the importance of these connections: “The managers in the sales organization have taken time to think through the most efficient and effective way to manage the customer side of the business”.  

With competitors on each global corner, today’s businesses cannot afford to lose customers or markets.  Staying connected with customers is critical for sustainability.  Relationship selling is a good method for organizations to use.

Like any relationship, there is a degree of tension involved in selling due to the need for solutions. The tension may be positive or negative depending on how much exists or how it is handled.  Businesses that can balance these conflicting interests will have an advantage over their competitors and an opportunity for greater profitability.

Please discuss your professional experience with this topic. 

© 2012 by Daryl D. Green


[1] “Double-dip odds on the rise” by Scott Patterson

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7 thoughts on “Relationship Selling Toward Greater Profitability in the Future

  1. Sales is full of techniques, approaches and philosophies. Relationship selling applies to any sales technique that focuses on the salesperson’s rapport and interaction with the buyer rather than the price or specifics of the product. Although all three are important in every sales transaction, emphasizing the relationship can improve customer loyalty because they become familiar with, and may even become friends with, the salesperson. Insurance agents, for instance, rely heavily on relationship selling. They must compete on the grounds of quality and cost, but their clients ultimately buy and keep buying because of the relationship. By contrast, auto sales, which often means just one conversation between a salesperson and the buyer, does not typically focus on relationship selling. John Hammergren, CEO of Mckesson Corporation, explains that, “Selling value and providing more back to your customers than you receive out of the relationship creates a virtuous cycle of trust and more business.” Thus, in today’s economic landscape, I believe it is essential to cultivate great relationships and develop a good reputation and doing so is essential to market sustainability.

    Hammergren, John (September 2, 2010). McKesson CEO: Sales Lessons From Dad. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2010/09/02/sales-lessons-healthcare-intelligent-technology-mckesson.html

  2. The importance of buyer-seller relationships has become more apparent with the onset of a weakened economy in the United States. Customers have been more selective when it comes to how they spend their hard-earned money. So, it became imperative for businesses to extend a more understanding in order to maintain their consumer-base, and not come off like a money-hungry machine. Fortunately for many businesses, technology now assists in that arena. Whereas before, there was a one-sided mode of communication in which businesses communicated through advertising and promotion, and customers responded with their wallet, businesses now find out what buyers’ needs are and solve problems through twitter and facebook. A disgruntled tweet could result in a representative from the company following-up with a free coupon to rectify the situation and retain the business. In the May issue of Ebony Magazine, Marcia Pendleton speaks on her experience in marketing Broadway productions to African-American audiences through visiting area churches and other down-to-earth strategies: “So much of what I do is based on relationships, research, and knowing the Black community as well as I do because I live it. I can do it with respect and love. I know how to connect the dots.”

    Reference: Chappell, Kevin. “Finding a Niche in Niche Marketing.” Ebony Magazine. May 2012. pg. 100

  3. Understanding human behavior is paramount to building strong relationships if you’re the seller. In medicine, we sell our services. Patients want a competent physician to take care of their needs, but it doesn’t end there. Nowadays, buyers are more concerned with bed-side manners and attitude. In order to attract a customer, you must not only be competent, but you must have good bedside manners and offer incentives that others don’t offer. Customers want a doctor who cares about them, both physically and emotionally. Bedside manners are so important that in a blog post by Dr. Kirsch, he mentions that a Chicago couple are donating $42 million to the University of Chicago which will be devoted to teaching medical students good bedside manners.

    Other measures can be taken to strengthen the buyer-seller relationship. A neurologist I worked for used to hand out free giftcards to his patients if they agreed to have a sleep study done at his clinic. He also offered free equipment, snacks and pharmaceutical products. This helped build a strong friendship/relationship with his customers who were pleased and happy with the service they received.

    Kirsch, M. (2011, September 25). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://mdwhistleblower.blogspot.com/2011/09/better-bedside-manners-whats-its-worth.html

  4. “You have no choice but to operate in a world shaped by globalization and the information revolution. There are two options; Adapt or die,” by Andrew S. Grove, retired chairman and CEO of Intel Corporation were accurate at describing how the international market is growing. (GLO-BUS Premium, 2012). Along with this quote is the core concept of globalization; a localized or multi-country strategy is one where a company varies its product offering and competitive approach from country to country in an effort to be responsive to differing buyer preferences and market conditions.

    When a company decides to diversify they need to make sure the entry into a new business or even a new country they need to meet and pass the three tests of (1) attractiveness, (2) cost-of-entry, and the (3) better-off-test. Each of these test are hurdles the company needs to jump in order to be successful in globalization.
    Reference

    GLO-BUS Premium. (2012). GLO-BUS Premium Business Interaction Game. STRATEGY: Core Concepts and analytical Approaches. Chapter 7, pp 135. Retrieved at http://www.glo-bus.com/DocViwer/# on March 7, 2012.

  5. Understanding human behavior is of most importance when an individual or company is fighting for ground in the current economic state. In the healthcare field, patients have more options as to where they receive their care. It is like shopping for a new automobile. There are on-line resources such as http://www.jointcommission.org where patients and their families can compare data and determine which healthcare facility has the best practice and outcomes. The care, treatment, and services provided are important, however, the customer service and “extras” play a hugh role in patient satisfaction, not to mention their return for future healthcare services. The doctors, nurses, and therapists attitude play a role in how a patient views the organization. We all strive to be our best, the relationship selling model based on Dr. Hinkes’ elements of branding, quality, flexibility, reliability, creativity, simplicity, efficiency, and price assist CEOs in moving to the top of their field. Understanding human behavior and relations will last a lifetime with a positive experience. On the other hand, if that experience is negative, you may never regain the customer or their loyality.

    • Anita,
      Healthcare certainly looks at relationship selling in an interesting way. It obviously benefits from repeat patients and referrals.
      Customer Relationship Management concludes that lifetime connections are profitable, and that nominal improvements in retention can significantly increase profits. (Tettah, 2008) John Hammergren, CEO of healthcare giant McKesson, confirms CRM when recounting traveling with his father as a child. “I absorbed this idea of partnering with your customers, creating relationships that are built on trust and accountability, doing what you say you’re going to do. Selling value and providing more back to your customers than you receive out of the relationship creates a virtuous cycle of trust and more business.” (Dolan, 2010)
      When talking with friends, conversation is natural and spontaneous. But, we become scripted when selling. Why? With friendship, we simply want to know the other person. In sales situations, we have an agenda. We operate under the premise that a sale can only happen if we control the process, never considering communication and building of trust. We could learn from Mr. Hammergren!

      Dolan, K. (2010). McKesson CEO: Sales Lessons From Dad. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2010/09/02/sales-lessons-healthcare-intelligent-technology-mckesson.html
      Tetteh, V. A. (2008). Customer Relationship Management. Customer Relationship Management — Research Starters Business, 1

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