Episode 78 of Landscape Digital Show reveals how a meaningful relationship selling narrative attracts and retains customers.


Relationship Selling in The Trust Economy

One of my longtime landscaping clients helped me understand the dynamics of relationship selling with a very simple question.

“What’s Next,” he asked, after a walk-through of a recently completed project.

My response may not have been the most thoughtful, but it was accurate.

“What do you mean what’s next, we’re done,” I replied.

“You don’t get it do you,” he asked?

“I guess not. Help me out,” I said.

My customer proceeded to remind me that years ago when our relationship began, his primary goal was to create a showplace that not only he and his family could enjoy, but also his friends and neighbors.

It was apparent I was standing in the way of that vision because I had viewed our interactions as a series of business transactions, as opposed to a relationship a business has with one of its customers.

That experience dramatically altered my view of selling. And I hope it has the same impact for you because embedded within that understanding is not only the secret to relationship selling, but clues for using email marketing, social media, video, websites, and just about every tool we have available to make it better.

Tell Better Stories

I’ve never been comfortable with the term upselling because it tends to focus on the stuff, the products and services, sometimes to the detriment of the relationship. This is one aspect of what my customer was trying to convey to me.

If you have to upsell a customer doesn’t it suggest that you didn’t get it right the first time? I believe it does and that has shaped my relationship selling model.

#1. Buying is personal
#2. Selling is collaborative
#3. Customers are community

To have relationships with customers you have to personally get to know them. Then capture that data with buyer personas that inform your future actions with your customers, that is, who they are, where to find them, keywords and phrases that resonate with them, and so on.

Selling is a collaborative activity or should be, regardless of whether of whether the communication channel is digital or personal. This collaboration is another source of valuable information, especially stories that illustrate why customers choose to work with your business.

Our brains are wired to make sense of the world. We search for stories that provide meaning by getting to what every buyer wants to know, and that’s why. Why you, why this product, why this price, why now, etc.

Most customer decision-making criteria are stepping stones to a universal question of trust: Why should I consider or stay in a relationship with this company?

This is a question that every business must answer again and again because it is one that comes up not just at the beginning of the relationship, but whenever there are communication gaps. As you know, communication gaps nowadays are any failure to respond to customers or proactively keep them informed.

Thus, relationship selling has a lot in common with content marketing: Consistently creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and ultimately, to drive profitable customer actions.

Today I was thinking about the many apps that I depend on. Every single one of those companies has a direct channel to communicate with me due to my having downloaded their paid or free app. If I were them and I would be using that channel to ask questions like these.

How are you using our product?
Have you downloaded the most recent update to get this cool feature?
Is there anything you need to know that we can address?

Since most of them rarely if ever contact me, other than to upsell me to a higher version, I have no other choice but to conclude they are concerned about profits above my business or personal well-being.

Like most consumers that don’t have a choice, I plan to stick around with these companies until something better comes along. Thus, your relationship selling mantra probably should be: Communicate now or lose them forever.

Build Your Relationship Selling Narrative

As we know, customers share stories about their experiences with friends and neighbors, but that’s not where it starts. Before customers become customers they tell themselves a story that justifies their decision.

Actually, it’s not one story but many. This explains why relationship selling is ideally a collaborative process that progressively achieves alignment, one story at a time. Throughout the experience of working together, the buyer discovers little pieces of meaning that either further or stop the process.

That said, remember that communication gaps can also stop the process.

When a buyer says, “Let me think about it, “ that is indicative of a gap that is in need of the right story to come to its rescue.

Your website and media are outstanding places to practice and record your stories. Get your sales and support team involved in this content marketing exercise too. Then do the hard work of organizing those stories so that they can be used in the right places and times throughout the buying or customer experience.

Your customers are a community that has self-selected by nature of their purchase behavior. Like members of a club, they tend to share similar lifestyles, challenges, and aspirations. Therefore, a story that resonates with them will tend to attract more valued customers just like them.

Call to Action

Like my customer, I am hoping you are wondering what’s next.

Build your plan for telling better stories that further the relationship selling narrative because that conversation gets and keeps customers invested in the relationship by either informing or reminding them why it matters.