Roy's Blog

May 4, 2010

How to make salespeople build excellent customer relationships

Sales must turn away from the traditional product flogging practice to building deep intimate relationships with customers.

The challenge becomes one of jarring sales loose from years of “product love” into a world where relationship rule.

Here’s some leadership hints to get you going:

— First, declare to the sales organization that you intend to move to a relationship-building (RB) performance management structure in 36 months. Discuss why the product-only method won’t work over the long terms and that sustainable competitive advantage requires the change.

— Set out year 1 changes: immediately sales performance management and bonus compensation will be based 80% on product revenue; 20% on measured RB competency.

— Then advise them that year 2 will look like: 50% product revenue; 50% RB competency.

— Then tell them that year 3 will move to 30% product; 70% RB.

— Of course you can decide on the distribution that fits your own circumstances, but I suggest that the shift away from the product approach be bold. If not, your aspirations to change won’t be believable and sales will continue to exhibit past behaviours.


Establish a customer report card to measure the RB performance of each salesperson by following these 9 steps.

1. Define 6 RB behaviors you expect each salesperson to demonstrate. Could be: listening, empathizing, follow up, consultation etc. The behaviors chosen must line up with the strategic game plan and values for your organization.

2. Weight each behavior as some may be more important than others.

3. Decide on a rating system for each behavior. I used ‘poor’, ‘fair’, ‘average’, ‘good, and ’ as the rating categories. It worked well.

4. Set year-end objectives for each RB behavior. A typical would get a target of 80% ‘good/excellent’ ratings.

5. Get the executive to sign off on the targets to ensure consistency with the game plan of the organization.

6. Engage customers to rate their sales person on each RB behavior. Do it monthly. Encourage written comments. The more customer commentary to explain the numerical ratings the more useful the overall process will be in terms of understanding the behavioral changes necessary.

7. Issue performance results monthly.

8. Require each salesperson to create an action plan to improve the RB behaviors below target. A meeting with their manager will present the opportunity for coaching.

9. Celebrate the “most improved” salesperson in relationship-building. Make it matter to everyone. Eventually have it dominate the sales recognition and reward program.


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  • Posted 5.4.10 at 12:00 pm by Roy Osing
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