How is Relationship Selling Different from Transactional Selling?

by | Nov 3, 2021 | Relationship Selling

One of the biggest challenges salespeople face today is the commoditization of their offers. The market is emphasizing low price and convenience. But salespeople that are selling large solutions can’t afford to fall into this trap. Their goal is to meet the customer’s needs and differentiate their solution.

When you need advice from experienced professionals, you want to rely on someone that will give sound advice, whether that’s a software solution, a database, insurance for executives or investing in property. For these categories of investment, it isn’t wise to rely on convenience or low price. Instead, you, as the seller, needs to focus more on capability and value differentiation. Do you agree?

I believe sales leaders today need to coach their salespeople to differentiate their products and services. Being a resource of information can prevent them from being commoditized by the customer. Sales leaders need to help their people focus on relationship building and not transaction selling. They need to help their salespeople understand the customer’s perspective on what is most important in making a critical company investment.

As a sales leader, help your team build their listening and presenting skills so that the prospect knows they are working with someone who has deep expertise and their best interest at heart. Building that type of relationship requires time and intent, but it pays huge dividends over time.
When it comes to relationship selling, I believe sales leaders need to coach their people on four important competencies.

First – determine the value of the solution. Is it going to provide the return they’re looking for? And does having a low cost even have to enter the conversation? My favorite formula is Value = Benefit – Cost. The more benefits your prospects can see, the more the cost is overshadowed by the dominance of the benefits. The result it more value. Value can be measured by the return on the investment. If I’m selling a software solution that costs $100K and it saves them $10k/month in operational costs, their payback on the investment is ten months, but their return continues to grow over time. Another solution might cost less, but the ROI isn’t even close, so the value also can’t compare. As the leader, help your salespeople refocus to value when the customer sees the cost as an issue.

Second – great salespeople provide strong problem-solving capabilities. Problem solving comes down to understanding the customer’s market, their business, and the solution you are providing. Great problem-solving skills go hand in hand with asking great questions. I’ve seen so many salespeople ask their typical questions, never going deep to find out what the source of the customer’s issue really is. Great salespeople set themselves apart from the competition by asking insightful questions that go deeper. I like to say, if you want better answers from the customer, ask better questions. There are many different techniques and questions to ask. I highly recommend the SPIN selling model which stands for Situation-Problem-Implication-Need Payoff. But the key to asking the right questions comes down to building a natural dialogue with the customer that feels genuine and not scripted. It has to be natural, sincere and relevant. I believe that is what makes the difference, and the customer would then be glad to open up and give you the details you need to really understand their problems. As the leader, give sufficient training and coaching to your team members so that they easily understand and can lead at least a few problem-solving conversations, especially ones that are based on the Personality Style of the prospect or client.

Third – demonstrate expertise in your company’s solutions. Expertise is the summation of knowledge and time. Trial and error. Knowing what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. I’ve always said I’ve learned more from my mistakes than from making the right decisions. It’s like anything else we become an expert at. I like to play competitive bridge. Over the last two years playing online with my college buddies, I’ve improved my game just by learning from the mistakes I made and then knowing what to avoid. It’s the same with sales. Expertise is a requirement when selling complex solutions. Customers are often resistant to change, so when they have a big purchase to make, the last thing they want is to deal with someone who lacks the experience and confidence to offer the best solutions for their problem. Trusting the wrong person or solution can destroy someone’s career. It’s important that every sales manager helps their team grow their expertise. It’s easy to blow-off some traditional sales training, but don’t take the risk by letting weak sellers interact with hard-to-attract prospects.

Fourth – build trust. Trust is paramount when selling complex solutions. No one would knowingly buy from someone they can’t trust. Instead, your goal is to build trust with your prospects, and to continue building it even if they become a customer. You want them to value your advice, and that happens through trust-building. As the leader you want to ensure that everyone on your team knows that you expect them to develop the right solution based on the prospects need and that commissions shouldn’t be a consideration. You also need to build trust with your team so that they will easily receive your advice, knowing that you also have their best interest in mind.

Value, problem-solving, expertise, and trust are the pillars of relationship selling that you as a sales leader can instill with your salespeople. Strong relationships result in sales growth and more new customers.

Good luck with your relationship selling!

©2021 Stu Schlackman