Guide to relationship selling

Blog Highlights

  • The basic goal of relationship selling is to invest in cultivating strong relationships with customers and prospects, providing value early on to demonstrate the benefit of working together.
  • When it’s properly executed, the value of relationship selling is often reflected through several key transactional metrics, including a higher average selling price and improved customer retention.
  • Along with emphasizing performance metrics that reflect relationship selling success, sales managers should also provide their teams with practical tips and tricks they can use to shift engagement strategies toward a relationship-centric approach.

Traditional sales strategies approach selling from a transactional point of view. Although it’s fair to say transactions remain one of the top goals of any selling strategy, modern sales teams recognize that a transactional perspective doesn’t always generate the best returns.

The best deal isn’t always the deal that customers choose. Instead, criteria such as expertise and trust must be accounted for in the customer journey. Perhaps as a response to the impersonal nature of transactional selling, many of today’s buyers are wary of doing business with a company that treats them like just another number.

Curious about how your business can avoid this pitfall and invest in better relationships that yield better sales results? The answer is relationship selling.

What is relationship selling?

The core tenets of relationship selling emphasize building strong relationships with customers and potential buyers. Sales teams that adopt relationship selling prioritize building trust with customers and prospects, cultivating relationships through frequent engagement, and providing value ahead of the sale by sharing their expertise and demonstrating the value of an extended relationship.

The long-term goal of relationship selling is to increase your ROI by building brand loyalty, which leads to a higher customer lifetime value (LTV). By investing more time and effort into researching prospects and their needs, and delivering value through a series of engagements, you can nurture and close more customers. You can do all of this by framing the customer relationship as a win-win transaction for both sides — one that increases in value the longer you’re together.

How does relationship selling benefit your business?

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When personal selling strategies are properly executed, the value of this approach is evident in the transactional metrics that reflect your sales performance. These benefits include:

  • Increased customer loyalty and retention: The 80/20 rule still applies for many businesses today — 80% of your revenue is going to come from 20% of your customers. This small segment represents key relationships that are crucial to retain. Relationship selling may boost customer retention across the full spectrum of your customer base, but the benefit of this loyalty will be most evident among your core consumers.
  • The ability to set a higher average selling price (HASP): The higher your HASP, the bigger the decision facing customers considering your business. Rather than lowering this price to ease their reservations, relationship selling is an antidote to that hesitation, which ultimately allows you to set a higher price and grow your profit margin.
  • Interactions that build a stronger image for your brand: Through value-added engagement and personalized messaging, your business can cultivate a positive reputation even among prospects you don’t initially convert.
  • A higher percentage of customers who become advocates for your brand: Conversion isn’t the end of the sales pipeline. Truly successful relationship selling will build a base of passionate customers who serve as brand advocates, driving word-of-mouth referrals and strengthening your brand’s reputation among your target audience.
  • A higher LTV: When customers stick with your business longer, the value of that initial conversion is worth more. Higher LTVs increase your sales ROI and alleviate the pressure to keep restocking the business with new customers to replace the ones you’re losing.

Tips and tricks for building better sales relationships

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The relationship selling process requires a philosophical shift in how your sales team might be prioritizing its resources and engaging its prospects. In addition to prioritizing performance metrics that reflect success in building and leveraging these relationships, sales managers should encourage their teams to implement practical changes to the way they engage customers and frame their sales efforts.

Here are some helpful tips to guide this transition:

  • Listen to customers and speak directly to their pain points. Relationship selling doesn’t lead with a sales pitch. Instead, it encourages sales agents to invest time into understanding their customers’ needs through a combination of background research and conversations.
  • Demonstrate and deliver value before the conversion. Share expertise and guidance with prospects. Connect them with useful content, and provide suggestions and tips that demonstrate both your expertise and the potential value of that expertise.
  • Adjust expectations for sales journey timelines. Relationship selling often requires a longer sales timeline with a greater number of prospect engagements. Timelines and expectations need to account for this change — and supportive sales technology, such as a customer relationship and lead management solution, will be crucial to tracking the progress of these relationships.
  • Lean on customer testimonials to validate your sales pitch. If you’re an established brand, you should leverage past relationships to build new ones and give prospects greater confidence in the full customer lifecycle your business offers.
  • Conduct regular check-ins. Given the longer timelines that sometimes come with a relationship selling strategy, your sales team must be diligent in keeping tabs on each prospect’s path to conversion and using regular engagements to keep the prospect warm. Lead management software and automated engagement tools such as email drip campaigns, can support sales agents as they manage this journey for many prospects at once.
  • Be honest about your limitations in addressing the customers’ needs. Authenticity and transparency are valued attributes in the relationship selling experience. By being honest about the services or capabilities you’re unable to provide, you give the prospect greater confidence that they can trust what you say — which will ultimately strengthen your sales pitch.
  • Provide flexible solutions to demonstrate efforts at personalization. Relationship selling is most effective when you’re able to tailor the experience — including sales messaging and even product offerings — to the unique needs your prospect is looking to address.
  • Don’t disappear once the conversion is made. When you engage in relationship selling, you’re setting an expectation that the relationship established during the sales process will carry forward into the future. You should maintain these relationships to strengthen your customer retention efforts, create upselling opportunities, and encourage brand advocacy among your customers.

How call tracking improves your relationship selling strategy

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To properly manage the longer timelines and customer-centric strategies of a relationship selling model, sales teams need:

  • Software solutions that support fast and relevant engagement
  • The ability to track a list of prospects across various stages of the path to conversion
  • To have insightful analytics that inform and improve their sales strategy going forward

CallRail offers a platform of solutions, from Call Tracking and Form Tracking to Conversation Intelligence and Lead Center, making it easy to keep track of these prospects while generating useful data to guide a more personalized, relationship-focused sales strategy.

CallRail can integrate with your CRM to consolidate inbound calls, filled online forms, and other types of lead data in a centralized location. It also connects each lead to historical engagement data and other information collected by your sales and marketing tech stack.

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With this platform-based approach, your sales team can use integrated call logs and engagement data to track interactions for each prospect. AI-powered tools like Conversation Intelligence can automatically analyze the content of calls to identify pain points and customer needs on both the individual and the macro level.

Through automated engagement, collaboration tools, and broader access to granular customer data, your sales team can provide fast, timely, relevant interactions that speak to the individual needs of any given prospect. Better yet, these services are fully scalable, allowing your sales team to maintain its speed, efficiency, and performance benchmarks even as your company grows.

Turning customer relationships into sales assets

By improving customer retention and leveraging relationships to drive word-of-mouth advocacy, the value of relationship selling extends beyond the immediate sales cycle.

See how CallRail can help — sign up for a 14-day free trial today.