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Dual Meaning

2 min readJune 3, 2021

I read so much nonsense about relationships in sales.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been writing about this more recently. (I admit; I get triggered by it…)

The problem many writers and commentators have is that they can’t get past a single definition of a “relationship” as an “emotional bond between people.” (AKA a friendship.)

That’s such an archaic way of looking at relationships in sales.

My friends, we are all reasonably sophisticated people. So, let me suggest that it’s possible for all of us to hold two contradictory meanings of an idea, or word, in our minds at the same time. (Think cognitive dissonance.) You already do this.

For instance, take the word ‘custom.’

Think about two of the most common uses of the word. Custom can mean a common practice. As in ’It is our custom to have turkey every year for Thanksgiving dinner.’

However, “custom” can also mean something uncommon or unique. Such as something built for a specific purpose. As in ‘Yes, this is custom software that we had developed to meet our specific requirements.”

So, one “custom” is something you repeatedly do the same way each time and the other “custom” is something unique you do only once.

Now take a minute and think about the two most common uses of relationship.

It can mean, as I wrote above, “an emotional bond between people.” This is the definition that appears to confuse those folks who think a relationship in sales has to be something deep and meaningful.

More to the point, a relationship also means “the way in which two or more things (or people) are connected or work together.”

So, when you think about building a relationship with your buyers, which one are you aiming for?

A) The deep emotional bond;
B) The connected functional relationship that enables you to work together (to achieve a common goal.)

Think of some things that are connected to work together.

For instance, a sprocket and a chain. Or, a wheel and a tire. (Okay, I admit that I’m looking at my bicycle as a I write this.)

How about a lamp and a lightbulb?

These are all things that have a functional relationship. One can’t fully function without the other. (And, I’d be willing to bet that they aren’t even friends…)

Whether you like it or not, if you’re selling to human buyers, you will have a relationship with them.

Now, can we stop the nonsense and move on to more important issues in sales?

Follow Andy on LinkedIn.