Relationship Selling—It’s Elementary!

The key is the Four Rs: Readin’, Rightin’, Relationship Building, and ’Rithmatic.

By Barbara Randi, Training Account Manager, Signature Worldwide

A few months back, I was privy to a conversation between a customer (client/guest) and a service representative (rep). It was obvious who was in charge. Although the customer, I will call him “Bill,” lacked knowledge of the item he was looking to purchase, he alone maintained control of the call and the so-called conversation. He asked the questions, receiving one-word answers. Quickly, the rep delivered some of the information the caller needed—the price of the item.

Then he hung up.

The encounter was not noteworthy. The service rep was unresponsive and indifferent, usually acknowledging the customer with “Yup,” “Sure,” “Ah ha.” Perhaps it was break time, lunchtime, or the end of the day.

Shortly thereafter, I had another opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation conducted by a service rep who cared. The rapport and relationship developed with “Bob” was well established. Obviously, a working friendship prevailed throughout the length of the call, making it easy for Bob to buy. Bob is a long-term customer; his purchase of a $350 item today grows throughout the year.

Bob will return.

The question: How does one turn a “Bill” call into a “Bob” call?

The Four Rs: Readin’, Rightin’, Relationship Building, and ’Rithmatic

Readin’: How well are you reading your customers (guests/clients)? Are you giving each your full attention—listening and watching their body language? Is the realization of how important body language is to communications understood by all your employees? Do you afford your customer the full service they deserve or does an operational agenda get in the way? Try an exercise with your employees: Ask each to demonstrate some typical body language their customers display during an interaction. Discuss the meaning of each posture and determine how the rep can help to change that stance.

Rightin’: I am talking about making things right for the customer—anticipating needs, being proactive, using language appropriate to a situation. In addition, sounding energetic and enthusiastic, welcoming and warm. A few years ago, I was in a popular and upscale supermarket—a national outlet. The clerk who slapped a $5 bill on the counter, to buy my silence, handled my complaint. She did not want to hear what I had to say. Of course, I took the money, but I was not satisfied. After five years, I still remember the incident. In addition, I am still waiting for them to make it right for me.

Relationship Building: The whole point of this article is that every interaction you have with a customer adds or detracts from their experience with you, your product, and your company. A true service professional understands the importance of building rapport with his or her customer. How do you begin? Reread the beginning of this article. What did “Bill” experience? Sales efforts are successful when you begin the relationship early. The service rep in this example never knew with whom he was speaking. The rep never ventured into taking the first step in relationship building—finding out the name of the customer. He did not attempt to draw the customer into the experience by asking the correct questions—questions to demonstrate interest and concern for the caller. It was product over people, or in the terms of a front office manager I recently met, transaction over interaction.

In his book, “The Fred Factor,” motivational speaker Mark Sanborn talks about the Seven Bs of Relationship Building:

  1. Be Real: Be yourself and develop your own style. Be interested—show the customer you want to know more about him and what makes him tick.
  2. Be a better listener: Digest what the customer is saying so you can accurately respond.
  3. Be empathic:Understand that the customer has feelings and those feelings may affect the situation.
  4. Be honest: Honor your promises.
  5. Be helpful: Even a small gesture will go a long way.
  6. Be prompt: Provide service in a timely manner.

In addition, I would like to add two Bs to this list:

  1. Be sincere: Ingenuous individuals are obvious.
  2. Be respectful: Respect for the customer will be evident, by following the Seven Bs (plus two).

’Rithmetic: Do the math. Legendary relationships pay off—increases in repeat business, new business, and customer loyalty—all lead to a heftier bottom line.

Barbara Randi is a training account manager for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.