The entire concept of "relationship" is being radically re-created today. Last year, I wrote a post asking if what salespeople were doing under the banner of "relationship selling" wasn't more akin to what I call "acquaintance-ship selling." In the last year, I've had lots of conversation on this topic and I'm more convinced than ever that the post is totally on-point.
What I've realized is that traditionally sales "relationships" were about being "liked." Salespeople were good guys and gals. They were easy to get along with. They made customers feel good. They took people to ball games and had big(ish) entertainment budgets. I remember sitting in a Tom Hopkins Boot Camp and reciting that my job as a salesperson was to get them to "like me and trust me" first and foremost.
The challenge is that being liked is nowhere near enough today. In a world of zero discretionary budgets, if salespeople (and selling organizations) want a customer's attention they must be valued. And there's a HUGE difference between being liked and being valued.
While by no means mutually exclusive, you can be valued and liked, these two attributes must be prioritized. If the goal is to be liked first and valued second (which by the way is the old school style - I'll get them to like me then I'll get them to value me), the behaviors will not support what's needed to drive profitable growth today. You'll be less likely to challenge or provoke. When the customer asks for a quote, you'll be less likely to tell them they are not ready for a quote, and so on. You'll be deemed irrelevant and, at best, you'll be positioned to "catch" opportunities that happen to fit.
When you focus on being valued first and liked second, you're far more likely to take on the behaviors to create demand. Rather than waiting for customers to tell you what they need, you'll provoke their awareness. You'll dig deeper, even if the customer is uncomfortable. You'll talk to the people in the buyer's organization that need to be talked to, even though your contact didn't like the idea, and you'll withstand the pressure of closing too soon, even though your customer is asking for a proposal.
Being valued means risking, even for a few moments, not being liked. Going forward, the only business relationships that will matter will be the ones where you're highly valued, even if they like someone else a little more.
What can you do to increase the true value of your relationships?