The MAGIC® of Relationship Selling

by Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin

“Nothing sells like great service and nothing serves like a great salesperson.”  This phrase captures the value of placing the customer at the center of every sales interaction, which is the heart of the MAGIC approach to relationship selling.

Consider this quotation from an article in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management (Liu, A.H., and Leach, M.P. "Developing Loyal Customers with a Value-Adding Sales Force: Examining Customer Satisfaction and the Perceived Credibility of Consultative Salespeople." Spring 2001, p. 147) regarding consultative selling:

  • “Salespeople must be able to communicate knowledge in ways that provide value to customers.  They must communicate effectively with both internal customers and external customers, and they must be committed to a long-term relationship where their own profits grow as their customers' do.”
Here you'll discover that a service focus and relationship-oriented skills are critical to the sales process – whether you're working with a customer of long standing or about to make a dreaded cold call.

Experiment with MAGIC

There is an array of preconceived notions and stereotypes that are attributed to salespeople.  Sometimes they are positive; as often as not, they're not particularly flattering.

Take a few minutes to identify those characteristics and behaviors that you might associate with a salesperson.  This may be particularly interesting—perhaps even challenging—if you yourself are a salesperson.  Capture your own ideas as well as what you think others might say.

Be as thorough as you can, hitting on both the positive as well as the negative.  As an added element, solicit others' participation in this exercise then combine your lists to see what you've come up with.

Now, review your list. There are bound to be some upbeat attributes in the mix – words such as “energetic” and “proactive.”

However, you may have other words that are less appealing.  Did terms like “pushy,” and “stubborn” show up on your list?  They often do. The fact is, salespeople often get a bum rap.

Whether they're justified or not, those attitudes and impressions exist, and we're going to help you counteract them,  leaving others with a very different view of what a salesperson can be.

Focusing on the Customer

Glance back at some of the words that appeared on your list of descriptive terms.  Chances are good that some focus on the salesperson himself or herself—words that suggest determination, discipline and a capacity to overcome disappointment.

But there might not be any words that describe the salesperson's focus on the customer.

That's the heart of the MAGIC approach to sales.  Our philosophy emphasizes the importance of placing the customer at the very center of every interaction.

The idea is not to push a product or service on a customer who may be completely uninterested.  Nor do we advocate a transactional approach based on slick strategies to get customers to say yes. Rather, we focus on adding value and building a long-term relationship that will benefit both parties.  

Here are the core principles:

  • Seek to understand a customer's needs and priorities.
  • Develop a relationship rather than just make a sale.
  • Use initiative and creativity to meet and, if possible, exceed customer expectations.
  • Identify challenges that a customer may confront and, in turn, position products and services as solutions to those issues.
  • Think ahead to identify long-term customer needs.
  • Respond to customers in a consistently professional, expedient and accurate fashion.
  • Act with integrity throughout the relationship.

A MAGIC Moment

Here's a story that shows some of these principles in action:
  • “Eight months pregnant and with a five-year-old, my husband and I bowed to the inevitable and decided to buy a minivan.
  • “We researched our options and decided on the van we wanted.  At the dealership, a friendly salesperson directed us to a van that met all of our specs with one exception: it had captain's chairs in the back seat rather than a bench.
  • “Captain's chairs were an additional $750 option and we didn't want them. ‘Why do people spend extra for these?' I asked. ‘Well they look nice and they are comfortable,' the salesperson said.  ‘How about I knock another $300 off the price?'  We hemmed and hawed, but ultimately decided to check with another dealership.
  • "Later that week, I explained the tale to my girlfriend Lisa.  Lisa had four-year-old twins and a two-year-old son. ‘Captain's chairs!  You need them. Don't you remember the arguments you used to have with your brother and sister when they got on your ‘side' of the car?  You'll have two kids soon. Captain's chairs take care of those annoying arguments. And when you need to grab something from the back seat, you don't have to climb over a bench to get it.  Those seats are worth every penny.'
  • "What she said made perfect sense. We went back to the dealer and bought the car from another salesperson. When we told him which van we wanted, he said, ‘Oh, this van is perfect for you with a baby coming – and you will love the fact that these captain's chairs avoid those sibling arguments!'"
  • "This salesperson and my friend Lisa did what the first salesperson neglected to do: paid attention to our family's situation and customized benefit statements to meet our needs. Good looking back seat chairs meant nothing to us; avoiding arguments and convenience in getting to stored materials did. Some observation, questioning and an understanding of the benefits that applied to us were what made the sale.”

When a salesperson focuses on a customer's needs and understands her priorities, he can find a product and benefits that meets them, and win the sale as well as the customer's confidence.
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .

Tom Larkin is president, CEO and co-owner of Communico Ltd. and has more than thirty years of experience as a consultant, coach, facilitator and business owner. He is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® and is also a part-time professor at Fairfield University.

Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.