Courting Customers: Master These 5 Relationship Stages to Make Sales and Win the Lasting Affection of Buyers

Business meeting at restaraunt

Know. Like. Trust.

In simplest terms, these are the relationship hurdles a salesperson must get over in order to convert a sales prospect into a customer. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Seller/buyer relationship dynamics can be complex and timelines can vary widely when progressing from one stage to the next. Perhaps a better way to think about nurturing a professional and long-term sales and business relationship is to view it as a courtship, with a long-term commitment – marriage, if you will – the desired outcome. Here’s how you can court your prospect and get them to the altar of business bliss:


Maybe someone has mentioned your name to a prospect, or maybe they have seen you across the room at a networking event. Somehow, some way, awareness happens. This can take place long before true interest is generated. During this initial awareness stage, curiosity might bloom, and even if you and your prospect have never met, you might speak with mutual friends or check out Facebook or LinkedIn profiles. At this stage, you are gathering baseline information, determining if it makes sense to meet.

The First Date:

At some point (could be minutes, could be months), one of you decides it’s time to make the first move. You know enough about each other, and know that you have enough in common (your prospect has a need and you have a solution) that a get-better-acquainted conversation makes sense. You set up a time and you meet. At this point, too many salespeople push too hard and try to close the deal. In other words, they try to move directly from first date to marriage. This seldom works. If a prospect is barely into the “Know” stage, it’s way too early to trust you enough to enter into business matrimony. The purpose of the first date stage of relationship-based selling should be only to establish the foundations for what might become a long-term business relationship. You are trying to learn enough to know if it makes sense to continue seeing one another. And that’s all!

Going Steady:

At the time of that first date, you are most likely one of many courting a client. Chances are that you have not yet had enough time to learn everything you need to know to determine if you can even truly provide a solution for the prospect’s need. But by moving forward with additional opportunities to get better acquainted, you will move smoothly through the “Know” stage and into the land of “Like.” Here you can request an opportunity to demonstrate and prove the value or your solution. If you are skilled and lucky enough to win that first order, you can continue to establish a stronger foundation for a relationship.

Getting Engaged:

Congratulations, you’re engaged! You’ve built enough likeability to generate an order. Now, of course, you must now work diligently to ensure that all after-sales tasks are performed reliably, efficiently, and on time. Your aim is to exceed your customer’s expectations with this trial run, so that when the customer has an additional requirement, they call you first. At this point, you are a solution provider, a preferred partner. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it can still be easy for the new client to walk out on the still-budding relationship.

Getting Hitched:

Finally, you reach the hallowed ground. If you have followed the rules of engagement and have continually worked hard to earn the right, you can become the chosen one. You know, like and trust one another. You have a true relationship, one that is “win-win” where you both work hard to keep it fresh and mutually beneficial. At this stage, you might be so closely aligned that you work with your customer to define strategy, not just sell tactical solutions. You are not merely a trusted advisor; you’re a long-term business ally. You are the “go to” resource, and your client is delighted to refer you to others. Finally, it’s at this level of partnership when you both understand the costs in terms of dollars, time and anguish, of separating, of starting over from scratch. Sounds like a marriage, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to learn more about how to move your sales prospects from awareness to alliance and create beneficial sales relationships, contact a Sales Xceleration Advisor today. They can help you create and implement effective sales strategies for greater selling efficiency and more frequent deal closing.