How To Use Relationship-Based Sales To Supercharge Marketing

Portrait of Lara Zakarian
by Lara Zakarian
Jun 20, 2017

After years of working in sales, I’ve learned there are two common ways to approach the selling process.

The first is transactional sales. This is when a client approaches a salesperson with a firm idea of the products they need, and the salesperson puts in an order. That works at times, but here’s the problem: people don’t always know what they want, even when they think they do.

That’s why relationship-based sales are so important. Through these, salespeople have the opportunity to get to know their client, learn their unique needs, and recommend the best products for them.

Now that I work with marketers to design effective advertising campaigns, I’ve realized that my experience with relationship-based sales is incredibly relevant to their goal of forming authentic connections with audiences.

Let’s look at what relationship-based sales look like in practice and how marketers can borrow from these strategies to run better advertising campaigns.

Two people meeting.

Relationship-based sales are a foundation for long-term loyalty

My sales career has taken me through photo labs, finance, and advertising. Regardless of the sector, relationship-based selling has been key to my clients’ successes. Below are three examples of how knowing customers uncovered hidden needs and provided me with opportunities for easier sales.

Growing a photo lab based on client needs

My first job was at a one-hour photo lab. Talking with people while ringing up orders made me realize that the store could do more to cater to our customers’ needs. I pitched the owner on stocking nicer frames, albums, and other gift items that are easily cross-sold with photos.

Our customers quickly noticed the changes, lingering to look at the items while their photos were processed. Uptake was huge—our first December after stocking new items, we went from $28,000 to $56,000 in sales.

My relationship with our customers was key to pinpointing a need in the market that wasn’t obvious to other salespeople. The added perk was being able to help our customers create memories and sentimental gifts, some of which are still sitting on mantles today!

Helping customers achieve personal financial goals

After that, I became a banking center manager, working with tellers, bankers, and loan officers to increase sales. It wasn’t difficult to make sales as long as there was traffic coming to the bank, but I knew relationship-based selling could level-up our leads.

I would sometimes visit malls to build relationships with store managers and tell employees of our business clients about free accounts and specials they had access to. This strategy created tons of contacts and gave me a deeper understanding of our customers’ financial goals. Knowing they were saving for a car made it easy to talk about a car loan with a special interest rate, and chatting about a planned vacation transitioned to talking about a travel rewards card.

These conversations made selling effortless because client relationships developed naturally, even though they were part of a larger sales strategy.

Creating successful media campaigns

Now, I help marketers design advertising campaigns to meet goals. In some cases, clients opt for something more transactional where they tell us the placement they want, and one of our salespeople turns around an IO. Then, boom—they’re the proud owner of some media.

But I tend to opt for more of a relationship-based approach by taking time to ask questions and learn about needs. With our broad range of inventory and audiences, this helps me make informed decisions when creating a roadmap to meet goals.

For example, my first client started running recurring campaigns due to our performance and customer service. When she visited the U.S. a few years ago, we met for dinner to talk about her campaign’s performance, giving me even more opportunity to deepen our relationship and find new ways for our products to solve her needs.

How relationship-based sales can be used in marketing

Likes salespeople, marketers are always trying to get customers to take some kind of action. For this reason, building relationships is just as important in marketing as it is sales.

Marketers should start by considering who their ideal customer is by building out personas. Think about this person’s pain points, experience with other companies, and how your product can meet their needs.

From there, it’s easy to use relationship-based sales strategies to build a real connection with targeted audiences through campaigns. Three tactics are outlined below.

1. Prove the brand is part of the community.

Referrals have more weight when they’re from friends. Marketers can optimize campaigns for this by running advertisements on publisher websites that cater to specific audiences. These publishers are a trusted source of news and resources and give advertisers a direct line into niche groups.

Publisher campaigns are seen as more authentic than targeting ads to a certain audience on social media or through ad exchanges, which show ads on tons of irrelevant websites. Over time, visitors will build a relationship with your product by seeing it as a supporter and member of the niche community.

Running campaigns with relevant publishers can be done through direct deals or ad networks specifically designed around passionate communities. For example, Carbon Ads makes it easy to run these campaigns at scale by connecting marketers with a network of publishers trusted by developer, designer, and business development communities.

2. Offer something of value for free.

Providing immediate value is an excellent way to kickstart a relationship with customers.

Communicating value through advertising is best done through sponsored content. The best forms of these ads provide targeted audiences with something of actual interest such as relevant commentary or free resources and tutorials. Relationships are built as people connect with and share sponsored content, further aligning a brand with a certain audience.

Publishers offer sponsored content opportunities in various forms—written, audio, newsletter, and more. Marketers can pursue these directly with publishers or visit a marketplace such as Syndicate for a listing of high-value opportunities by audience.

3. Be honest.

Great relationships are built on honesty. This can be tricky in marketing and sales—everyone wants to put their products in the best light and close the funnel.

But people can see through dishonesty, so it’s important that advertising in all forms remains truthful and authentic. Avoid marketing jargon to form a more genuine connection and treat customers fairly, or relationships will never grow and marketing will suffer.

Relationships are key to performance marketing

Relationship-based selling has been my key to success. Whether it’s a photo frame, a travel card, or the perfect media plan, a relationship-based approach has unlocked opportunities to find solutions to needs my clients didn’t even know existed.

For marketers, supporting niche communities, offering value, and remaining honest are the vital ingredients to making meaningful connections. Developing relationships with customers on the path to conversion will strengthen brand reputation and lead to more effective advertising campaigns.

Ready to put relationship-based marketing into practice? Let’s discuss a roadmap to connecting with your audience. Reach out by filling in our contact form.