Relationship selling is about creating positive, lasting impressions with customers. For example, Carrabba’s Italian Grill is one of my favorite restaurants in Knoxville. During our 22nd anniversary, my wife and I celebrated there. Our waitress was very attentive to our needs. In terms of positioning, I think the restaurant is above Olive Garden.

Yet, even though I had a high level of praise for this business, I became a little irritated when our waitress took a break and left us unattended. It took us some time to get over that situation. Therefore, customer satisfaction can be a little fickle and make a customer-centric approach difficult.

Building relationships with customers is very important for sustainable success for businesses. However, some customers have a negative reaction to the seller-buyer interactions (i.e. salespersons in retail pressuring customers to buy). Although selling is about business transactions, selling is also about building relationships. Consequently, the concept of relationship selling is a hot commodity in a hypercompetitive environment. Phillip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, suggest the importance of sellers connecting with buyers: “Marketers must connect with customers-informing, engaging, and maybe even energizing them in the process.”

For this article, we will examine the basic concept of relationship selling. Relationship selling requires somewhat different skills than traditional selling, as it involves securing, building, and maintaining long-term relationships with profitable customers. Kotler and Keller further maintain, “Customer-centered companies are adept at building customer relationships, not just products.”

Furthermore, many organizations simply do not consider customers when planning their sales strategy. Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, share four relationship mistakes by businesses which are (1) wasting customers’ time, (b) behaving as a victim instead of an employed salesperson, (3) lacking the understanding of the customer’s business, and (4) bringing problems instead of solutions to the job.

For example, Carrabba’s Italian Grill failed to adequately address our needs due to a focus on their internal operations rather than how to maximize their profit. However, it is only due to relationship selling that we will go back.

Furthermore, Paul Peter and James Donnelly, authors of Marketing Management, suggest that profitable marketing begins with understanding customer needs. Yet, it is a trait that is not gained by accident. Being a professional in a highly technical field, we are required to possess certain skills and abilities. Finally, serious businesses should seek to master the concepts of selling relationships. It should begin today!

(c) 2013 by Daryl D. Green