It seems that anywhere I turn there is a conversation, blog, discussion or new book on Relationship Selling. You may also be seeing and hearing the banter.

I have no problem with the idea of "Relationship Selling", my only question is.

"What is this relationship?" can it be described or is it just another catch phrase to sell product and talk smart.

My belief is it can be defined, but many salespeople and managers may be avoiding the accountability that goes along with a clear definition. After all, a bit of gray area, some foggy ideas and generalized thinking can keep most inquisitive minds at bay.

Here are the key points I feel make up a strong sales relationship…

There may be many ideas as to what makes up a great and effective relationship in business; I will condense this to six areas.

1. TRUST: Now this is always the first word out of people's mouths when I ask the question, what makes a good relationship. Yes, it is the Keystone to creating, building and maintaining an effective business relationship. If there is no trust there will be no business done or activities carried out other than avoidance!

So what is trust and how does one create it? The terms "relationship of reliance" show up in the definitions. Can I rely on you? Can you rely on me? If I believe I can rely on you, then I trust you. So the real issue comes down to how reliable both parties are or at least are perceived to be.

2. RESPECT: One has to realize that I do not have to like you or be your best buddy to respect you and vice versa. I know many people that I have high respect for in certain areas. Yet I would not want to spend time with them socially, or be their best friend.

We can respect others for their abilities, their character or talents. So what do others respect in you? Are your clients looking at you as an equal in some way? Are you perhaps even better in some ways? Do you respect their special abilities or capabilities? Can you point their qualities out to them, and they yours to you?

Without mutual respect in some form, the foundation of Trust can become shaky at best.

3. VALUE: Does each party provide Value to the other in some form? If there is no Value in either tangible material value or in emotional supportive value, why have the relationship?

Now is Value always a product/service provided and financial reward returned? It can certainly be a major part of the relationship or can there be other values as well.

A quick example is former coaching client of mine. I had not talked with him for some time, but knew they were having some challenges because of the economic situation. I dropped in one late afternoon just to say hi and keep in touch. A brief wait and we began what I expected to be a short conversation. Very quickly, it turned into a problem solving discussion about finance, banks and what do I do. Fortunately I had a contact that I thought might be able to help and almost 2 hours later, I left with my client having several possible solutions from my contact. You could see the weight lifting off his shoulders. This put no money in my pocket at this time, yet what value did I provide and what value might I receive down the road?

How do you provide value other than your product/service and what value your customer provides you other than pay their bill?

4. MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS: This means the communication between the parties is very open and non-manipulative Do we divulge all our dark secrets of a personal nature? No.

But is there real value in the conversations that has an impact on how each party sees the other. Do the conversations build more Trust and Respect or simply feel good? Is each party better off because the other caused them to think differently or view something differently than before? Is there some type of impact on one or both because of the conversations?

This means discussions about topics many people may avoid or feel is not proper. Yet, my experience says the more open we are and the more we are willing to help others through either business or personal challenges, the greater the Trust and Respect become.

5. RESULTS ORIENTED CONFLICT: Ok what does that mean? Any relationship that has gone on and grown has had conflict of some type along the way. Every time I talk to a married couple at their 40th or 50th wedding anniversary, I get very similar answers. "I assume it wasn't all bliss over those years?" is the question. The answer, "Oh there were some pretty rough times, we didn't know if we would make it, but we got through it and became even closer, more trusting and loving."

So many error by trying to avoid any type of conflict in a business relationship. The potential loss of the business and client is many time the justifying reason. Yet, more often than not, the client is looking for someone they can trust to work through the issue and come out better on the other side. Therefore, many miss one of the best opportunities to build a really strong relationship by working through conflict.

6. ACCOUNTABILITY: This is perhaps the most intimidating and most challenging part of the relationship. If I am asked to do something and fail to do so, what happens to the Trust and Respect? Is the same not true of the client and their failure to come through on their part?

Having accountability and expectations as part of the Meaningful Conversation is just as important as the Trust and Respect part of the relationship. In fact, the absences of accountability on either side will erode the Trust and Respect from the other side.

Setting expectations for each party should be a standard part of any sales conversation. Yes, clients need to have expectations to meet from their side just as the salesperson has to meet expectations. Otherwise, the relationship is one-sided, isn't it?

There you go; six areas that I feel need to be part of any effective business relationship. The question now becomes, "How do your businesses relationships measure up?"

If any of the six areas gets goose bumps rising or a reaction of concern or even fear; then you know where you efforts need to be in order to move those relationships ahead.

Take charge, it is up to you and it is your choice how you interact in your relationships. You can build stronger, better and longer lasting relationships if you choose to.

Author's Bio: 

Harlan Goerger is President of H. Goerger & Associates and the author of The Sellign Gap, Selling Stratagies for the 21st Century. With over 30 years of training business executives and sales people, he brings proven new ideas to his clients.