Relationship-building process

Author Monica Truong-N, University of San Francisco

Posted: June 19, 2016

Tagged: Sales process

A successful sales process is formed through building a relationship with the clients and through understanding their needs and wants. Successful salespeople will integrate a process into their work that is “suggestive of long term, comprehensive and inclusive collaborative linkages between dyadic partners” (Cousens, Babiak, & Bradish, 2006, p. 2). This begins with an understanding that a positive relationship between client and seller is one where the client believes it is an equal partnership. There are several approaches to building this necessary relationship and partnership, but all agree that when there is a relationship, the likelihood of success in a sale or negotiation is higher.

Holmes (2008) suggests that in order to begin the sales process, one must establish a relationship with the prospects and that “a much higher percentage of sales [occurs] if [one has] good, solid rapport with [his] prospects” (p. 195). Holmes (2008) defines rapport as “an emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual liking, trust and a sense that they understand and share each other’s concerns” (p. 195). Truly, a client must feel as if their opinions matter and that their specific needs are being addressed. Furthermore, Shapiro (2015) argues that if one has “not built credibility and engaged the other side emotionally, logic is not as compelling” (p. 14). Only if we can connect to a client emotionally will rationality be an influencing factor in the client’s mind.

Simply as human nature dictates, we do not tend to trust other humans who have yet to prove themselves to us. We require evidence, either in previous experiences or through the word of mouth from others, that those we are trusting with our money are capable of providing what was promised. Thus, we are more receptive to those who we feel we may already know through a mutual connection. Thus, Skildum- Reid and Grey (2014) argue that it is imperative to “make contact with the right person” within a company (p. 159). Ourand (2015) argues that building relationships through mutual acquaintances makes sales and renewals much easier, and that LinkedIn helps facilitate this mutuality (p. 12). LinkedIn “warms up the relationship” in the sense that it allows companies to find “business based on geography or industry” (Ourand, 2015, p. 12). Rather than wasting our time trying to find business with those who probably are not interested in buying, we are able to connect with those who have shared interest, geographical location and mutual trusted contacts.

Skildum-Reid and Grey (2014) assert that a “[s]ales process is 75 percent preparation, 10 percent sales pitch, and 15 percent follow-up” (p. 159). Being prepared for each step towards building a relationship helps ease the likelihood of success and every successful sales process requires planning for each step. As a result of preparation, Shapiro (2015) argues that people are more receptive to sales when one has a plan and is prepared to conversate with them in a productive way (p. 14). Holmes (2008) also agrees that a well-formulated sales process will have multiple steps, each planned to build up to the sale itself. Each of Holmes’ (2008) seven steps of the sales process find a way to be prepared for whatever the customer may throw his way and builds in a productive way towards the relationship with the client, such as building value for the buyer or creating a need through desire (pp. 198-203). Shapiro (2015) asserts that scripting a meeting and preparing for all “possible objections [and] questions” will give one confidence, and that “nothing convinces like conviction” (p. 14). Similarly, step five in Holmes’ (2008) sales process claims that “isolating the objections” and finding a solution for them will allow clients to “close the sale themselves” (p. 204). We must be prepared to solve problems for our clients and show that we have already thought about how to help them as best as we can. This sense of caring will build up any relationship as it shows thought and foresight.

The end goal of sales should be to create a sustainable and long-term relationship to those you are selling to. As Shapiro (2015) asserts, “building meaningful relationships [should] lead to further deals and collaborative problem-solving” (p. 14). Holmes (2008) addresses this issue in the last step of his seven step sales process by arguing that we must follow up to make sure the client knows that he still cares even after making an initial sale (p. 208). Relationships help facilitate each factor that goes into making a successful sales process – with rapport, a salesperson can be trusted by their client when they attempt to build value, create desire, overcome objections and close the sale (Holmes, 2008, pp. 192-208). Without the sincerity that results from having a relationship, clients are less likely to believe that their needs are being cared for and as a result are ultimately less likely to buy.




Cousens, L., Babiak, K., & Bradish, C. L. (2006). Beyond sponsorship: re-framing corporate-sport relationships. Sport Management Review, 9, 1-23.

Holmes, C. (2008). The Ultimate Sales Machine. New York: The Penguin Group.

Ourand, J. (2015). How LinkedIn is helping the NBA sell. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(2), 12.

Shapiro, R. (2015). How to sell and negotiate more effectively in sports. SportsBusiness Journal, 17(44), 14.

Skildum-Reid, K., & Grey, A. (2014). The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

About Monica Truong-N, University of San Francisco

Monica graduated UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts in International Development Studies and a minor in the German language, and is currently in the Sport Management graduate program at the University of San Francisco. While at UCLA, she worked as student manager for the Division One Men’s Tennis, Men’s Water Polo and Women’s Water Polo programs. She is currently serving as the Olympic Sports Assistant at UCLA Athletics. Her plans are to continue her education through to law school and become an agent, specializing in tennis and soccer. This is an edited version of a paper Monica prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales class at the University of San Francisco.

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