Relationship selling has long been the go-to approach for many salespeople. However, research has shown that most decision makers no longer want to build a relationship with a salesperson. The days of drop-by visits, “I’m just checking in” calls and brochures and other corporate literature sent out to clients are gone.

Your customers and prospects are too busy to sit and chat. They don’t have time to thumb through your latest catalogue of products or listen to you discuss the merits of your latest and greatest product update. Relationship selling is no longer as effective as it used to be—at least not in the traditional sense.

Recently, I wrote about the importance of salespeople improving their business acumen if they want to achieve long-term success. On the surface, this seems like a simple concept. However, the practical application is considerably more challenging. It means that we, as sellers, need to become more knowledgeable—not about our products but about current business issues.

I recently received an email from a salesperson who asked how she could develop this business acumen. Aside from reading trade magazines, the business section of the newspaper and scouring the Internet for new trends and issues, you can meet with existing customers and ask them what trends they are noticing, what challenges they are encountering in their businesses or what changes they anticipate. Be upfront by telling them that you want to broaden your knowledge. The key is to use this newfound knowledge to help other customers and prospects improve their business results.

Personally, I love meeting with business executives because I enjoy discussing business and hearing different perspectives and insights about changes in industries or trends. This type of information fascinates me because these issues affect business results and ultimately influence buying decisions. I have found that most senior-level business people are more than willing to share their expertise and wisdom (provided that you reciprocate).

This approach is much more effective in developing strong relationships than the traditional, old-school methods. Not only will you stand out from your competition with this approach, but you will be viewed as a peer. And because you have sought out their insights and demonstrated your trust in them, they will be that much more likely to feel similarly toward you and seek you out for solutions to their problems.

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Kelley Robertson helps sales professionals master their sales conversations so they can win more business at higher profits. Get a free copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” and “Sales Blunders That Cost You Money” at http://www.Fearless-Selling.ca.