was recently talking with a business owner who was struggling to sell more to an existing client. He could not understand why the client would not take his calls unless he wanted to buy something. ‘I really want to try and build a relationship but how is that possible if he will not meet me?’

It seems that the nature of this relationship is ‘don’t call me, I will call you….’. It is very much a transactional relationship. The business owner wanted to take the relationship further because he realised that a trusted relationship was the key to selling more to this client. It turned out that the relationship with all of this particular business owner’s clients was similar.

In my observations, this business owner was always selling. Whenever he was with someone he would be seeking to sell them something. His approach to selling is far from consultative.

In building major client accounts there is a time to sell and a time to listen. People are far too busy to waste time with pushy sales people unless they need something. A more consultative approach to the client interaction would mean that the client has something valuable to gain by agreeing to meet. This makes account management and account development so much easier.

The bottom line is that if you teach people that every time they meet you they are going to be subjected to a sales pitch then they will always be hard to get hold of. The exception would be when they are ready to buy and that may be too late.

They are unlikely to want to build a trusted relationship where they open up and tell you about their plans for the future unless they know that you are interested in helping them and not just selling them something everytime you meet.

I am not saying that this business owner’s approach does not work. Far from it. He runs a successful business. Yet he struggles with account development. He has no competitive edge through relationships. Until he changes his approach to account management, his relationship with clients will never move much beyond the transactional level and he will probably always need to compete for every deal. He will miss out on the deals that go straight to the trusted adviser.