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The Foundations of Relationships

People buy from people that they like and from people that they trust. And each of us is in a position to become a trusted advisor to each of the important people in our customer’s organization. To quote Dick Jackman, “By your chosen profession, you are in the business of people. And the business of people is the business of taking care of friends.” A CEO once told me he looked for two things in the organizations that were selling to him: 


  • Someone who said, “I want to make you successful.”

  • People who would be there when times got tough, because, he said, at some point, times always get tough.

The people that we call on have business needs and they have relationship needs.  The following diagram represents a way to determine how we are doing in developing relationships with the important people in our customer’s organization:   

  • If we are not meeting a person’s business needs, we are a stranger.

  • If we are meeting a person’s business needs but not relationship needs, we are a vendor.

  • If we are meeting a person’s relationship needs but not business needs, we are a friend.

  • If we are meeting a person’s business needs and relationship needs, we have the potential of becoming a trusted advisor.

The Concept of “Gifts”

Here is an idea for elevating the value that you bring to your relationship with each of the important people in your customer’s organization.  Every single time you make a call on an important person in your customer’s organization, take a gift. And the very best gifts are the ones that have no particular material value. The very best gifts are things like information, education, analysis, perspectives, recommendations, ideas, vision, being a sounding board, mentoring, introductions, referrals, problem solving, and just plain friendship. 


The best of these gifts costs you nothing. And delivered with thoughtfulness on your part, one of these gifts has the power to transform a relationship. Characteristics of a great gift include thoughtfulness and an element of surprise. Think about it. Why do we wrap presents? So that there is always a sense of anticipation associated the gift. 


And so, if you develop the reputation of bringing a high-value gift every time you make a call on an important person at your customer, what will be the reaction the next time you call for an appointment. It will most likely be something like, “Oh boy! I wonder what the gift is going to be this time!”

Building Relationships

One key to building relationships is investing enough time in understanding the needs and interests of another person so that you can know what “gifts” will be most valuable and most appreciated. The rewards of these investments can be enormous, both in terms of business performance and in terms of our own personal satisfaction.

“There is nothing we like to see so much as the gleam of pleasure in a person’s eye when he feels that we have sympathized with him, understood him, interested our self in his welfares. These moments are the moments worth living.”

- Don Marquis

ABOUT CPS: Critical Path Strategies helps clients improve the effectiveness of their sales organization. Our portfolio of services addresses the strategic, organizational, and relationship issues that impact selling performance. Our powerful processes enable clients to transform their sales culture, enhance their competitive position, and accomplish strategic business initiatives. Our clients—emerging companies and members of the Fortune 500 alike—typically measure 100 to 500 times their CPS investment in revenue growth.

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