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Are You Too Relational to Thrive in New Business Development Sales?

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by Mike on July 24, 2012

We hear it all the time. “This is a relationship business.”  Or, “It’s all about the relationship.”  I’ll ask someone about their selling style, and quite often, the proud reply is “I’m a relationship salesperson.”

Those answers sound good and are usually accepted at face value. But you know what my experience shows – particularly during challenging economies and rapidly shifting markets? It’s not all about the relationship. In fact, I’ll push the envelope a bit here and very likely offend a few folks: A good number salespeople are too relational for new business development. Some are so relational that it actually hurts, not helps, their ability to pick up new pieces of business.

Heresy? Not according to what I’m observing across a variety of industries. Every day I see salespeople, good salespeople who excel at various aspects of selling (account management, customer service, project management, client retention), flail and fail when it comes to developing new business. There are a host of reasons salespeople fail to bring on new accounts and new business. I catalog the “Not-So-Sweet 16 Reasons” I commonly see in my soon-to-be released book New Sales. Simplified.  

For people who are primarily driven by preserving and building relationships, conflict, rejection and risk are like what Kryptonite was to Superman. It drains and defeats them. Most highly relational people hate conflict and are quick to admit it.

News flash: New Business Development Selling involves a good deal of conflict and perpetually exposes the salesperson to potential rejection. It’s often difficult to work your way in to a targeted prospect account. That work often requires pushing past resistance – something that’s unnatural for the overly relational salesperson. Asking a prospect to make a change and move their business is risky and puts us in a position of facing possible rejection. It also requires asking the customer to break an existing relationship with their current provider, and that can be a very unpleasant task for someone who sees relationship preservation as their highest calling.

Don’t over-read into what I’m saying. Relationships are huge. They matter – a lot! The ability to build relationships, demonstrate credibility and earn trust are essential to succeed developing new business. But time and time again I see people in “hunting” sales roles who brag that they are relationship salespeople fail miserably when it comes to acquiring new accounts.

Something to ponder: If you are really solid at most aspects of sales but consistently struggle to develop new business from new accounts, or even execute the behaviors necessary to do so, is it possibly because of how you’re wired? Are you too relational to thrive at new business development?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri Dunevant July 26, 2012 at 9:03 am

Love it Mike! It’s time someone said this out loud and straight. As a sales trainer myself, I get it all the time… “I’m working on the relationship first.” My gosh, someone else is going to scoop up that client before that “relationship builder” ever gets to where they feel comfortable enough to ask for the business! Relationship building is a skill, not an excuse : ) Thank you.

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Mike July 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

Good morning Terri. Thanks for the affirmation and straight, blunt talk! I couldn’t agree more. I often see the self-described “relationship salesperson” translates to “I don’t or won’t prospect for new business.” Stay tuned for follow-up post about the damage resulting from over-serving and babysitting our existing accounts.

Thanks for the comment and have a great day,
Mike

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