Back to Columns

All salespeople recognize this one simple truth: Most of the business we do is based on the relationships we have with our customers. It stands to reason, then, that your best customers will be those with whom you have the best relationships. But how do you build those “best” relationships?

You need to construct a foundation step by step. Each step leads to the next level, and the next, and the next. In fact, there are four levels that make up the sales-success pyramid:

Level 1: Prospecting and Presentation
Just about every company trains new salespeople by teaching “funnel selling”–that is, the more cold calls you make, the more sales you make at the end of the funnel. What’s most important, however, is what’s inside the funnel–how you take a customer from the first appointment through the sales cycle to the close.
There are successful salespeople who simply call, get the appointment, close and move on. They sell by the sheer numbers of calls they make. The disadvantage, though, is that their energies aren’t being used synergistically; they’re expending energy on individual calls instead of forming the kinds of relationships that generate repeat business.

Level 2: Relationship Selling
If you want customers to come back, they have to like, respect and trust you. That trust means:

  • Truth. Customers expect that if your product or service isn’t right for them, you’ll let them know. If you do, they’ll call you again.
  • Reliability. Customers want to know you’ll be there when they need you, you’ll keep your promises and you’ll deliver more than expected.
  • Understanding. True understanding means listening to customers’ needs, getting to know their goals and figuring out what they want to accomplish.
  • Service. What do you do to differentiate yourself? Do you give value-added service so customers will be willing to pay more?

Level 3: Solution Selling
In order to provide solutions for your customers, you have to ask better questions, fully understand your customers’ needs and goals, and become an expert in their businesses as well as your own. You’re not only selling a particular product or service, but you’re also selling a complete package that includes quality products, customer service and your unique ability to help solve customers’ problems.

Level 4: Partnership Selling
You’ll hit the highest level of the selling pyramid when customers see you as a partner in their businesses. You get to the point where, as in any good friendship, you don’t have to make small talk anymore. You can just sit back, relax and enjoy. Your best customers should feel this same kind of ease with you. They know the value you’ve provided at the other three levels of the pyramid; you can stand proudly and comfortably at the top.

But you can’t stay there forever. In fact, sales reps constantly go up and down the pyramid. And incessant prospecting will keep your foundation solid and strong. So, once you reach the top level with your current customers, you should start making more cold calls. Your success will provide you with the confidence you need. Don’t stop and rest on your laurels–your pyramid’s foundation will fall apart. Instead, if you constantly reinforce and fortify the base of your pyramid, you will have built a strong foundation for success.

Barry Farber consults with a variety of industries to help them grow and
expand their business.
He is the best-selling author of 11 books on sales, management and customer
service. His latest release “Diamond in the Rough” CD program is based on
his best selling book, radio and television show.
Visit him at: or email him at: