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Relationship Selling

Relationship Selling Techniques: 6 Concepts to Master

Table of Contents:

If you haven’t heard of relationship selling before, don’t worry–you aren’t necessarily late to the party. Though the term has been thrown around the sales world for years, it only recently rose to popularity outside of sales-specific roles. Mastering relationship selling techniques in real life is a whole new challenge, though.

Relationship selling is the act of putting your client’s needs first and prioritizing a great sales fit, rather than merely transacting. It’s the process of understanding what your customer needs and thoughtfully evaluating what you can offer them. 

This sales approach is even more useful today, when consumers get sold to just about every waking hour. People are going to tune you out if you don’t treat their needs as valid. So, what are the relationship selling techniques you need to know? Keep reading for all the details. 

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Relationship Selling Process

The relationship selling process is full of smart moves. Some may be intuitive to you, some may be brand new. No matter where you are in your relational selling journey, you’re bound to find great material below. 

Just like other professional pursuits, embracing the right principles prepares your mind. Sales is a difficult career and you won’t get far without focus. Let’s start with the foundation of the relationship selling process, which is understanding buyer needs. 

Understand the Three Core Buyer Needs

The three things every buyer wants is feeling seen, heard, and understood. These are universal human needs that can be met through relationship selling techniques while still fostering trust between two people. 

Bear in mind that you don’t need to become “buddies” with your clients in order to sell effectively. Some mistakenly (and understandably) believe that relationship selling means building personal relationships. There’s no need to stay in touch with clients outside of work conversations, but they should feel that they can trust you, and vice versa. 

Below you’ll find each of the three needs and strategies on how to meet that need: 

Feeling Heard

Listening well is the first of three needs and it’s the easiest to fulfill. You can make someone feel heard no matter what your first interaction with them consists of.

Whether you used email templates for real estate agents to send a cold email or are meeting face-to-face, specific behaviors communicate you’re aware and listening. Here are the essentials of both digital and in-person listening: 

Digital Full Body Listening

  • Refer to them by their preferred name. Communication through the Internet is already impersonal, but avoiding names only makes it worse. One of the best relationship selling techniques is using your client’s name. This shows you care about them on an individual level and that you’re willing to invest in serious conversations with them. 
  • Respond to each of their questions. The flow of communication in person is a little different, but online, people observe your every word. That’s why it’s essential to respond to each question your prospect has. It validates their concerns and shows you treat them as important. It also demonstrates you value communication, because your client doesn’t need to fear asking too many questions. 
  • Respond in a timely fashion. The world is busy and people understand that you can’t always get back to them right away. However, the Internet age has brought new expectations about communication with it. Set aside at least two times per day to respond to emails–preferably several hours apart. This way you’ll catch most of the emails you receive and those you’re speaking with know that you’re reliable. Discover all of our best email strategies in The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing.
  • Use good lighting and audio on video calls. Video conferencing existed before COVID-19, but after that point it became ubiquitous. Video calls are increasingly prevalent in real estate, where anything can happen at a moment’s notice. To maintain a professional image, you should only take video calls when your personal tech supports it. Dimly lit room? Add a couple lights in the right places. Audio sounding tinny or fuzzy? You need a new mic. These are relatively inexpensive investments that ensure a positive impression in your clients’ minds. 
  • Follow up if you have more questions. A tricky aspect of digital communication is that sometimes things fall through the cracks. If you don’t understand what your prospect is getting at, ask them a friendly follow up question. Nine times out of 10, your recipient will be happy to clarify. This saves you from assuming the wrong information or making a mistake later on. 

In Person Full Body Listening

Listening well in face-to-face conversations is just as, if not more important than emails and video calls. Most face-to-face conversations go well, but it helps to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios. 

Here are six relationship selling techniques for in-person, full body listening: 

  • Make eye contact in the right proportions. When listening, you should make eye contact a little more than two thirds of the time. When speaking, you only need to make eye contact about half of the time. The subconscious mind sees these frequencies as friendly and safe when speaking with others. 
  • Listen twice as much as you speak. It is a little trite, but speaking half as often as you listen is sage advice. Listening is about putting someone else’s perspectives and needs before your own; making sure you hear their thoughts is necessary. To develop this skill, practice not thinking about how to respond until your speaker is done. This prevents listening to respond, rather than listening to understand. 
  • Have most of your body faced toward your client. Relationship selling techniques include critical aspects of body language, like this one. Some professionals view every conversation as a potential transaction, so they don’t meet someone “at their level.” If you’re shifted to one side or looking away though, your client will believe you don’t care. Sit up straight and face comfortably forward in your conversations. You’ll appear confident, alert, and open. 
  • Avoid having your feet pointing away from your prospect. Included with general body language is your feet. Research shows humans evolved to see someone with their feet pointing away as a signal that they’re about to leave the conversation. Over thousands of years this has held true, and you don’t want your prospects to get the wrong message. Keep your feet pointed straight ahead or slightly askew. 
  • Center yourself during tense conversations. As a real estate agent or broker, you’re bound to have a few conversations that go sideways. Rather than responding in kind, take a moment to mentally center yourself. A calm mind leads to a calm demeanor, and this is vital in sales roles. Experts recommend reminding yourself of a couple things. One, angry people are rarely angry at you; it’s typically a situation. 
  • Ask clarifying questions. Just like digital conversations, clarifying questions are key. If you don’t understand something or feel like information is missing, ask about it. The worst that can happen is your client may get temporarily frustrated. The alternative is that you heard something incorrectly and end up paying for it later on.

Feeling Seen

If you barge into a conversation putting all the emphasis on yourself, you’re going to get a lot of complaints. Clients want to feel seen, and it’s a key part of how to build trust with a client

Use these four relationship selling techniques to ensure your clients feel seen: 

  • Treat each client like an individual. When you’re talking with dozens of clients per week or month, it’s hard to remember who’s who. That’s also why a smaller number of strong leads is good for business. Rather than showing each of your clients the same properties, show them various listings and ask what they’re interested in. Chances are your prospects will know what they want to look at beforehand, too. This makes it easier to understand their preferences.
  • Ask them about topics outside of home buying. You know that friendship isn’t necessary with clients, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly. Asking prospects what they have planned for the weekend or what they like to do for fun are lighthearted, low key questions that just about everyone is comfortable answering. 
  • Maintain buffer time between meetings. Don’t make the mistake of booking back-to-back meetings. Not only do you risk cutting a meeting short, you may end up late to your next meeting. Plus, you never know when a meeting will go well and you’ll run longer. Add at least 15 minutes between phone calls and however much time you need between in person meetings. 
  • Smile appropriately and be personable. Though it’s intimidating meeting new people, everyone wants to feel safe around strangers. That includes your client, and yep, you guessed it–you’re a stranger to them at first. Show your human side by greeting them warmly and thanking them for their time. You don’t need to be over the top; you just need to be someone they’d be comfortable talking to at a bar. 

Feeling Understood 

Feeling understood is the third need prospects have when speaking with all types of sales persons. People want to feel like you aren’t treating them with a one-size-fits-all approach. They know they aren’t your only client but that’s no excuse to treat everyone’s needs as identical. 

Let’s look at three ways to help your clients feel understood through relationship selling techniques:

  • Validate what your client is saying. A simple way to help someone feel understood is paraphrasing what they say. This doesn’t mean you need to repeat everything they say, but do acknowledge some of their statements. It eliminates misunderstandings and keeps conversation flowing. 
  • Offer customized solutions whenever you can. Real estate is one of the few industries where no two products are alike. As such, you need to use real estate marketing ideas like video and content marketing to reach your target audience. Consumers know to take their time in home buying and usually see nine to 10 houses before deciding on one. Lean into this by asking what they look for in a home and reviewing your listings for similar properties.  
  • Share facts rather than making it about your opinion. Clients want to feel like they are in the driver’s seat. Part of this is keeping facts at the center of your conversations. It can be tempting to share your own unsolicited viewpoints, but remember that every client is different. Stick to relationship selling techniques that work in every context and you’ll be golden.

Hold a Deep Discovery Call or Meeting

Setting the right foundation with your clients involves a full-fledged discovery call. Unlike intro calls, this is a 30-60 minute meeting that allows you to ask deep questions and figure out exactly what they are looking for. 

You should prequalify clients prior to discovery calls so you don’t waste your time or their time. Prequalification involves questions like “Have you met with a lender and gotten pre-approval yet?” and “How much are you pre-approved for?” This may seem like overkill, but it prevents you from talking with people who aren’t serious about home buying or don’t realize they need to get pre-approved. 

Discovery call questions are deep by design and draw out info via relationship selling techniques. You can use questions like these to get to the heart of your client’s goals: 

  • What piqued your interest about this listing or working with me?
  • Do you have an idea of the home you want, or are you open to different styles?
  • How far are you into your home buying process?
  • Are there any others who should be involved in this decision?
  • If you’re selling, are you preparing for holding an open house?

At the end of the conversation, be sure to thank your client for their time. Let them know you’re there if they have any other questions. 

Don’t wrap up the call until next steps are identified. Whether that’s a first or second showing, a conversation they need to have with their partner, or whatever else, ensure they are getting it on the calendar. Then simply wait until the scheduled time to follow up and you’re good to go. 

middle aged woman using relationship selling techniques on cell phone

Develop Trust

Trust is the fuel that allows relationship selling techniques to take off. Without it, professionals don’t know that their prospects are interested, and prospects have no reason to invest in the conversation. 

Trust is the largest immaterial factor in a business conversation yet also the most important. It takes time to develop and yields the biggest rewards when used.

So how do you cultivate this all-important characteristic? 

  • Take conversations at a reasonable pace. If you’re rushing through a sales conversation, your prospect may feel like you’re pushing something. A confident salesperson doesn’t rush because they know what they’re offering is valuable. A reasonable pace allows your lead to consider your offer and come up with questions. 
  • Tell the truth. This is one aspect of relationship selling techniques that can’t be half-baked. Twisting the facts to land the deal can ruin trustworthiness faster than almost anything. If your client is young or inexperienced in home buying, don’t take advantage of that. Give them the facts when it comes to their comparative market analysis. Answer them the same way you would an experienced buyer or your peer. They’ll respect you and know you’re a reliable source of information. 
  • Be a man or woman of your word. An important part of trust is promising only what you can deliver. Clients often want to know how much a house price can be reduced, or how much it can be increased if they’re selling. While you might be tempted to tell your client they should list their home for 5% higher, don’t do it if you know 1-2% is more reasonable. Your client won’t be happy if they trust you only to find out your recommendation is keeping buyers away. 

Offer Value to Your Buyer

A top reason real estate agents get into the industry is to help clients find wonderful new homes. As you develop insights and successfully close deals, you have a perspective on real estate that no one else has. 

This becomes your own value–a kind of experiential knowledge that no other agent can provide. It’s important to share this value with prospects, because it’s a top trait they look for when learning how to find a good real estate agent.

They hired you over dozens of other agents they could have chosen. That’s great, because it shows you understand how to market yourself as a realtor. So how can you offer incredible value through proven relationship selling techniques? Here are a few tips: 

  • Become an expert in your market area. Successful real estate agents know a lot about the region they work in. They’re familiar with the best bars and restaurants, popular entertainment choices, school districts, and the housing market forecast for the surrounding area. Home buyers pay attention to the culture and neighborhood safety of places they want to move to, so being able to speak with their agent as an expert helps a lot. 
  • Share facts about the neighborhood during showings. If your client is moving to the area for the first time, chances are they don’t know many neighborhood details. If you’ve taken the time to research parks, trails, and recreational areas, let your client know. Many home buyers love houses that are near outdoor activities and biking trails. It also improves the first impression clients have of the home, which can make it easier to close.
  • Attend business and restaurant openings. Staying on the cutting edge of your market area will put you ahead of competitors. When other agents are still sharing the same four restaurant names with their clients, you can mention that a brand new one just opened up a few blocks away. Your clients will be impressed with the freshness of your knowledge. This also boosts the likelihood your clients will refer their friends to you, which is the fastest way to get more referrals
  • Answer questions or offer to follow up if you don’t have the info. One of the best ways to offer value is simply answering questions. Serious buyers will have several of them, and the more you can answer, the more value you provide. Don’t fret over being unable to answer a question, though–you can always follow up when you know more. 

Don’t Push the Deal

Being confident and not pushing the deal are two more relationship selling techniques. It requires patience from new and experienced agents alike because agents are usually ready to close the deal quickly.

The typical home buyer looks at about eight to nine homes before putting in an offer on one. If you’ve caught the buyer early on in their home buying journey, you’re in luck. With the professional and friendly attitude you bring to the table, you can simply help your buyer continue browsing. 

Continue asking your client questions and conducting new showings for them. When they’re ready to take the next step, you’ll be a phone call away. 

Buying a home is a considerable financial and emotional investment; no one wants to be rushed through it. Think about how you would want to be treated during the process, and give your client the same respect. 

If the house they’re looking at is popular, it’s more reasonable to coax them along. Missing the opportunity to put in an offer is more inconvenient than thinking about it but not getting the chance to. 

Outside of that, simply be your best and let the process do the rest. Great homes can sell themselves to the right buyers; all you need to do is facilitate the conversations through relationship selling techniques. 

Follow Up After Every Meeting

Following up after each meeting is essential in real estate. It’s wise to develop a follow up system so you can maximize your resources as an agent.

Selling homes is a matter of responsiveness, professionalism, and relationship selling techniques. This means that you can’t afford to do manual follow up for every meeting. 

If you just had a prequalifying phone call and your prospect will talk to a loan officer next, an automated email follow up is fine. You can set this up in your email service provider (ESP) or any email application that allows you to send triggered emails. Your prospect will get an email thanking them for their time and pointing them to your calendar for the next conversation. 

If you conducted a first showing for a buyer or in-person meeting, phone follow ups are recommended. It’s a deeper level of investment for you and often communicates honesty and reliability to your clients. 

What Is Relationship Selling In Marketing?

Relationship selling in marketing is any technique or approach that balances the input of the marketer with the consumer. As an example, relationship marketing may invite the consumer to shape the outcome or function of the product, rather than all decisions being made by the marketer.

Crowdfunded products are a form of relationship selling in marketing. Crowdfunded goods and services are prototypes that designers share online to see how popular they would be in real life. Based on the number of people who show interest and pledge money for it, the product or service will become successful. If not enough people like the prototype, it won’t get made. 

Another kind of relationship marketing is sending surveys. Surveys allow customers to indicate what they like and what they want changed so you can offer a better service. 

Rather than assuming you’re doing everything well much of the time, you’ll find out through data if you are. When using a survey, make the feedback anonymous if possible. Survey respondents are more honest when they don’t need to attach their names to their feedback.

Trust that the majority of your results will be honest. Some people may be extreme, but most people want to tell the truth. See what people say and determine what you can do to make changes. This makes your service more appealing to future customers with fewer objections. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Relationship Selling Techniques

Relationship selling is a weird phrase and can be difficult to understand in practice. On the surface it sounds like two words that shouldn’t go together, but reality shows it’s an ingenious approach. 

However, using relationship selling techniques takes time to master. It also helps to have multiple perspectives on how relationship selling is used. We looked up commonly asked questions about relationship selling and compiled our answers below. Take a look now: 

How Do You Build Relationships In Sales?

Though it’s a broad question, the best way to build relationships in sales is reaching out to people. Be proactive in starting conversations and figure out what people are looking for. 

Listen to what’s behind the words from the person you’re talking with. Can you connect with something personal for them? That’s the core of all relationship selling techniques. Is there a commonality between your situations that makes conversation easier? Talk about this with them.

They’ll appreciate how good of a listener you are and this makes it easier for you to start talking when it’s your turn. Use this open-ended process for new sales conversations, and you’ll be surprised at how things take off. 

How Important Is Relationship Selling?

Relationship selling is important depending on what product or service you’re selling. In the case of real estate, where the average buyer is forking over $25,000 to $50,000 for a down payment, relationship selling is wise. 

Whenever big dollar amounts are involved in a decision, emotions are going to be a big part of it too. Holding your own thoughts and emotions back is part of serving your client, who is only concerned with their preferences. 

If you’re selling something that costs less than $100, you don’t need to employ relationship selling. Inexpensive products don’t elicit strong emotions when shopping, so buyers don’t need to justify their decision as much. 

What Is Partnership Selling?

Partnership selling is a subset of relationship selling techniques that allows the customer to define what’s valuable in the sales conversation. It’s similar to relationship selling in that both buyer and seller take time to understand each other’s needs and work towards a mutual solution. 

In partnership selling, a salesperson or company will contact prospects or past customers to ask them what they’re interested in buying. The prospects will share what is valuable to them, and the salesperson then builds an offer based on the feedback. 

This allows the buyer to describe exactly what they want while the company acquires a nearly guaranteed sale. Given that the company or salesperson reaches out to relevant buyers, there’s essentially no downside. 

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Meeting the Needs of Buyers

There aren’t many skills that pay dividends for life, but relationship selling is one of them. The sooner you practice understanding what’s important to other people, the more natural you’ll become in sales. 

At the end of the day, relationship selling techniques don’t have to be complex. They require strong listening skills and putting others before yourself, but that sums it up. Relationship selling techniques aren’t silver bullets to a 100% close rate, but they don’t need to be. They are effective tools for understanding people on their level and becoming the ultimate professional resource.

Enjoy these relationship selling articles? Check out our full list of relationship selling skills in the ABCs of Relationship Selling.

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