So They’re saying “Selling is Not About Relationships”. I’m saying Bulls..t

 According to their new book “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” Matt Dixon and Bret Adamson tell us that “Selling is not about relationships”. The writers attempt to shock us with that headline in their Harvard Business Review synopsis so that we will read it and it works.

When I read the article (after being shocked by the headline) I realized that these two guys were not describing relationship selling in the same way the rest of the sales world does. They took the liberty of redefining sales types into five new categories including a.) Relationship Builders b.) Hard Workers c.) Lone Wolves d.) Reactive Problem Solvers e.) Challengers.  I have never heard of these profile types before and my impression is that they invented them to create a different perspective.

Their analysis shows that the group called “Challengers” is the most effective of the five types. But the sentence that grabs us is “Relationship Builders come in dead last, accounting for only 7% of all high performers”. They go on to say… “Why is this? It’s certainly not because relationships no longer matter in B2B sales–that would be a naïve conclusion. Rather, what the data tell us is that it is the nature of the relationships that matter”.  They contradict their own headline.

So what is the meat of the matter? They believe that sales people who rely solely on the value of the relationship to drive sales are not effective. I agree that the relationship is not enough to drive the sale and certainly you need additional skills to close business. But all sales begin with and depend on the building of relationships. Without relationships none of the other categories above would be successful.

In my mind relationships are at the heart of all sales strategies and processes. If you are not a relationship builder, you will not be successful in sales. In my own experience over the last forty years I am convinced that strong relationships with my clients has been key in delivering all of the sales I have made. More importantly, the relationships have allowed me to secure additional sales year after year from the same clients rather than delivering one sale and walking away.

I have seen tweets and BLOGs lauding these two writers for their insight and offering up a new present day perspective on selling. I have seen other articles and BLOGs lately questioning the value of relationships in selling. My advice to my clients is to be certain their sales personnel excel at relationship building, because in the end you can’t sell without that skill.

And of course my own view of the thought “Selling is not about relationships” is…..bullshit.

Thoughtfully yours



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