The Ten Laws of Relationship Selling

Tony Hughes


Definition - Transactional Relationship Selling: Building relationships of genuine rapport and trust for the purpose of gaining information and support for a buying decision that is in the best interests of all concerned. The sale is achieved through the transference of belief with positive emotion and supported logically with facts and evidence.

The following ten laws must be observed.

1. People buy from those they like and trust.Corporations do not buy but individuals do so from those they like and trust. Trust is built through shared values and genuine understanding. Do your homework and be a domain expert by truly understanding their industry and your market. Applying unwanted pressure and closing prematurely is a mistake. Anything that damages trust and understanding is to be avoided.

2. People buy with their emotions and justify decisions with logic and facts. Selling is the transference of emotion and belief supported by logic and evidence. Factual information supports rather than drives the decision to buy.

3. Listening is the most powerful form of influence. You learn nothing while talking. Listen and ask insightful questions. Talk no more than one-third of the time. People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover.

4. You cannot sell to someone who is unable to buy. Unless someone has a problem and the necessary money and the authority to commit; they are not a prospective customer. Your time is a precious finite resource; do not waste it.

5. People always act in their own best interests. Regardless of what a person tells you, trust only what is in their best interests. Thoughtfully validate and test commitments made to you or your company. Ensure that you understand what's in it for them personally.

6. Features are not benefits. Product or service features will never win the deal but can eliminate you, often without you even knowing. Features are only benefits if they solve the customer's specific acknowledged problems. Over-emphasis of features can create unnecessary objections and concerns with price or the complexity and risk of implementation and ownership. Avoid PPS - Premature Presentation Syndrome.

7. The product is not the product. The product is you and the outcome that is achieved when buying the product, service or solution. In addition to this; the sales person, their team, methodologies and ability to deliver are essential elements of any solution. Does your LinkedIn profile sell you to buyers (rather than employers)?

8. Problem solving comes before solution selling. The size of the problem determines the size of the opportunity, and price is only relevant if they want what you are offering. Focus on creating value through delivering the best outcomes with the lowest risk. Never discuss price before agreeing value. Price should be no more than one-third of the equation in the buyer's mind rather than the predominant determining factor.

9. A sale is only a sale when you have irreversible commitment. Verbal commitments can easily evaporate and letters of intent are not binding. Signed contracts and purchase orders are good but it is only when you have a client's money in your bank account that a sale has been truly achieved. They are only a valid customer when they have realized the business benefits of your product, solution or service.

10. Attitude is everything. The selling profession is amongst the most difficult of careers. This is because it is highly demanding emotionally and intellectually. Success requires the solid foundation of positive attitude, self-belief, and adaptability; all combined with competence in execution and disciplined work ethic. Lasting success is always limited to the worthiness of the sales person as defined by their skill, values, habits and attitudes. Value for employer and customer is defined by your ability to positively influence and deliver results. Embrace challenges and difficulties because they create a barrier of entry to your sales competition, internally and externally. Scarcity creates value and there are very few masterful sales professionals. If success in your environment was easy, it would not be as rewarding or lucrative.

Although these ten laws relate to tactical and relationship selling, they all nevertheless also apply to strategic enterprise selling. There are however additional considerations as the complexity of the sale increases. The techniques and behaviors that work in simple relationship selling can actually damage the chances of success in large complex sales environments. Very senior relationships and dealing with complexity is what largely defines the need to be strategic. In large complex enterprise selling, having no strategy equates to having little chance of winning. Review the additional Laws of Strategic Selling.


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by Flickr: ky_olsen


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