No, of course not. Relationship selling – selling through building and nurturing strong personal and professional relationship – will never go out of style. But are Relationship Building sales reps the top producers in today’s sales organizations? No. In fact, they are the lowest in ranking amongst the top sales producers.
This disturbing information surprised the researchers as much as it might be surprising you.
Last month we wrote how today’s top sales performers are predominantly reps who teach, challenge, and bring insights to their prospects and customers. These so called Challenger Reps, as highlighted in recent breakthrough research by the Corporate Executive Board, are distinct from 4 other sales rep profiles: 1) The Hard Worker, 2) The Relationship Builder, 3) The Lone Wolf, and 4) The Reactive Problem Solver. Challenger sales reps bring deep customer business knowledge combined with bold and innovative thoughts and ideas. This rep profile represented 40% of all the top sales producers; Relationship Builders represented 7%.
So what’s wrong with traditional relationship selling? Nothing in particular. But in today’s tough selling environment, one has to do better than be known and well liked by the customer. Top reps today challenge and teach for differentiation, adjust appropriately per the various contacts and titles they engage, and assertively take control, willing to have tough conversations and dig deep early before moving on to the logical next step. Relationship Builders, seeking to please and advocate, typically don’t rock boats. Challengers stir the waters with insightful customer business provocation and impact customer learning.
Given that buying environments today involve consensus decision-making, while important, individually strong relationships don’t hold as much sway as in the past. Reps who drive insightful customer learning as part of the overall sales experience are more effective than reps who rely on their own individual attributes, or relationships.
Are you challenging customers while building relationships?