summer pier fishing

Relationship Selling – The Steps to the Sale

This is the first article in a series about four key elements of professional selling and marketing: 1) relationship selling tips and strategies, 2) hiring, training and leading a sales force, 3) integrating marketing and sales teams to perform as a whole unit, and 4) tips and strategies to measure sales and marketing effectiveness and performance.

Whether you have two salespeople or a team of one hundred, all this content is written from a very narrow perspective but the concepts and applications adapt to a larger scale.


There are as many ways to sell something, as there are fish in the ocean. The problem is you can’t just throw a hook in the water and catch a fish. Fish are particular about what they eat and where they eat it. Each kind of fish has specific needs and responds to the bait differently. The ocean is a big place and there are hundreds of thousands of different kinds of fish.

Great Fisherman Use a Step By Step System to Catch Fish

Learning to sell requires an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Just like fishing, learning what works allows you to catch fish vs. fishing all day with nothing to show for it.

The old style of selling is doing whatever it takes to sell your product. Being persistent is a trait that’s still relevant today, but the old push and shove methods are outdated. A salesperson just can’t say whatever they can think of to convince the customer to buy what they are selling. Misrepresenting facts and over promising are characteristics that no customer wants to experience.


Customers Want to Buy,

They Don’t Want To Be Sold


Selling is about helping the customer buy. It is less about selling them anything. While you might think that’s just a play on words, in reality, it’s a huge difference. Think about your own experience where you met a professional salesperson who helped you buy something. 

What Are You Selling Today?

Creating differentiation is challenging today because there’s so much clutter in the market. There could be five products that look the same, but are made from different manufactures. All of them have their product in our face wanting us to buy it. Marketing is everywhere. 

In the 1920’s businesses started setting themselves apart from competitors by offering state of the art luxury, air conditioning. Convenience became a big wave with the introduction of the credit card in 1966. Today, e-commerce is all the rage because you can use your phone to research a product, then order it and have it delivered in a matter of days. Speed of delivery of anything we order online is incredible.

Every product that’s made and then sold had a salesperson somewhere in the chain that either made a sale or lost one. A call was made or a meeting was set up. One person talked with another one. Somewhere in the chain, the selling aptitude and relationship approaches either moved things along to make a sale or they didn’t. Make sense?

If you are a business who depends on repeat business, then you are selling the relationship first, then the product. Yea, I know this varies by product category and markets so don’t get cranky yet. Make no mistake about it; you are in the relationship selling business.

While relationship selling isn’t a fad, selling in today’s world is different than previous years. Throw away products, infused technology, the Internet and a host of elements are challenging the way to sell. While noticeable changes are occurring the fundamentals of the “steps to the sale” system is still very much the same as it has been for years.

Professional Selling is a System

Professional selling is a system that once you learn it, the payoffs are tremendous. You can sell anything. Don’t learn it and you become an average salesperson that earns average wages.


The Core of the Sales System Has Not Changed,

How You Apply These to Your Products and Customers Has


Why Should I Use a System?

The “steps to the sale” are meant to guide the interaction between a salesperson and a customer. All the marketing and pre-work creates this engagement. This system is activated at the start of the sale. It provides a salesperson a roadmap, so you know where you are and what to do next. It provides a sales manager a roadmap to coaching a salesperson to reach peak performance. 

Utilizing a system creates more sales to close in less time. It creates more profit than not using a system. It helps the salesperson to work smarter, not harder. Ok, I could make a list 4 pages long but by now, you get the gist.

catching fish by Panama City Beach FloridaWhen using this system with one or several salespeople, management starts to see certain behavioral traits. These are either good or bad traits that move the sale along or it doesn’t. The measurements metrics reveal key behavior traits where coaching and training provide exponential performance improvements. Minor improvements commonly yield significant margin increases and other financial benefits.

There are hundreds of selling systems and process descriptions with all kinds of fancy terms. There are variations where there are three or ten steps. It all comes down to these fundamental steps:

Steps to the Sale for Relationship Selling

  1. Meeting/Greeting/Introduction: This is where you make the first contact. This could be in person, through the phone, email or the Internet.
  2. Qualifying/Investigation/Discovery: Only through questions and then listening can you understanding your customers wants and needs.
  3. Presentation of the Product or Service: Understanding your customer’s wants and needs allows you to properly present the product features and benefits.
  4. Demonstration of the Product or Service: This is where you “show” them how your product works to solve their problem.
  5. Close the Deal: You ask for the order and complete all paperwork. If the steps are followed right, the customer buys you won’t have to sell them.
  6. Follow Up for Life: There is a system for following up with the customer to earn more business and additional opportunities through referrals. It’s a relationship, and it needs nurturing or it goes away to someone else.
Making Predictable Sales Makes More Profit

Fishing is more fun when you catch fish. An experienced fisherman knows where to catch a specific kind of fish. They learn the fish patterns and what bait will attract it so catching fish becomes more predictable.

Trout fishing in CanadaSelling is more fun when it becomes predictable. There is nothing more frustrating than to think you are in the closing only to find out there are more objections that should have been found out early on in the sales process. You end up wasting time and energy. Then the customer says, well, I need to think about it. Have you ever heard that objection before?

How we use the Steps to the Sale certainly have changed because customers are smarter and have more information at their fingertips than any other time in history. Salespeople often complain about the customer only wants the best price. In reality, all they want is a professional salesperson who can understand them in an honest way then listen to their wants and needs, then present to them a product while showing them value for their money.

Selling is Easy When You Know How To Do It

Specific skill sets propel a professional salesperson into the rankings of the superstars. I’ll address this in more detail in future articles. There is not a one-size fit all approach. I’ve seen super salespeople who do not fit the “image” or those who might not have the “outgoing” personality one might think is required to be successful. Becoming a professional starts with your commitment to the life-long learning of your craft.

You can’t earn a degree without getting a formal and informal education.

It’s a fact that salespeople who learn more earn more.

Stay tuned, there is more to come on these subjects!