Secret to Success

Are You Developing Transactional Relationships or Relational Transactions?

Relationships are that hard-to-quantify thing that almost every salesperson knows is key to their long-term success. At the same time, relationships that don’t produce results at some point are no longer considered fruitful. 

The ones that aren’t fruitful are called something else, right? We call those “friendships.” 

And while friendships are certainly wonderful, they’re not necessarily what salespeople are paid to develop. 

So, here’s a question to ask when evaluating your customer engagements: Are you developing transactional relationships or relational transactions 

What’s the Difference?

Perhaps the easiest way to think about the difference is to consider the objective. In transactional relationships, securing the transaction is the objective and the relationship, whatever it is, is in service to that objective. As a results, with transactional relationships, your value is defined by the last order in your interaction. In other words, the value of the relationship is equal to whatever value was delivered by the products and services most recently purchase.

On the other hand, with relational transactions, the primary objective is to build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Transactions, if and when they do occur, are based on that foundation. In other words, trust and mutual respect may ultimately lead to transactions, but transactions are not the point of the relationship – they are a biproduct of it.

At the core, the motive of a salesperson who builds transactional relationships is “How do I get my customers to buy?” The driving motivation for salespeople who develop relational transactions is “How do I help my customers make better decisions?”

A good rule of thumb: If we want a relationship that endures past our last meeting, we need to be just as concerned with our customer after placing the order as we were when we were earning that order. We want to be defined by our relationship, not our last transaction. 

6 Steps to Develop Relationship-Based Transactions

A shift in attitude may be essential to developing more relational transactions, but it isn’t sufficient. Beyond wanting to serve customers, we need to demonstrate that commitment by our actions. So, here are six steps we can take to ensure we are building relationships that last and deliver value well beyond our last transaction.

1. Be a trusted partner

It sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked. We need to make it clear to our customers in the first (and every) conversation that we intend to help them make the best decision, even if that means NOT buying from us. 

2. Seek insight, not information

Ask thought-provoking questions about the customer’s business state and gaps, not the questions that every other salesperson asks that scream, “Tell me what I need to learn so I can sell you!”

3. Guide them

Bring a point of view about not only the current challenges or problems our customer faces but the future challenges they should consider. Our perspective is to help guide, not simply to sell.

4. Help our customers define criteria

Help our customers define the criteria they’ll use to compare alternatives when making a decision. Make sure these criteria are based on the positive or negative impact they will make on the customer’s business drivers. Present any recommendations based on their unique requirements, not our standard pitch deck.

5. Be proactive

Be proactive about helping our customer manage the risk with any business decision by helping them feel confident with: 

  • How to identify the best solution among similar alternatives

  • How to best manage any disruption that could happen when implementing something new

  • How to ensure the ROI will meet expectations

6. Demonstrate you’re in it for the long run

Prove to the customer we’re way more concerned about what happens after they buy than we are about getting the order. Engage as proactively after you get the order, and even if you don’t, as you did at the early stages of the relationship.

The Last Word

Relational transactions are built on a promise that extends well beyond whatever product or service we sell. Therefore, these relationships are stronger, last longer, and provide a bigger return for us and our customer than one-off sales that progress no further than the exchange of money for a product. They increase customer retention and reduce our marketing costs. When we focus on the relationship first, more and better transactions will naturally result if and when they should. When we focus on the transaction first, we may win an initial order only to miss out on all the follow-on business and referrals that help trusted advisors consistently overachieve, usually with far less frustration than the transactional sellers around them.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage these and other best practices to build a winning sales team and sustainable competitive advantage? Let’s connect.

Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

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