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Build the Right Relationships with Your Buyers, with Bridget Gleason [Episode 432]

Bridget Gleason is VP of Sales for Logz.io and my regular guest on Front Line Fridays. The relationship is a well-worn topic in sales, but in this episode we uncover new insights unfamiliar to most sellers.

Key Takeaways

  • The topic is relationships with buyers. The definition of relationship is key. Unless they buy online, and don’t interact with a person, there is a relationship, but is it a friendship?
  • A relationship is a connection. There are fundamental parameters for a buyer-seller relationship that buyers want.
  • The relationship is based on the seller’s performance in support of the buyer’s needs. Expectations of both parties must be met to maintain the relationship.
  • Positive neutrality is the minimum relationship. A buyer who actively dislikes you will soon go to someone else. Should the buyer’s relationship be with the salesperson, or with the salesperson’s company?
  • Doug Sandler’s Nice Guys Finish First, asserts that being nice is the key to attracting buyers. People buy from people — in particular, from people they enjoy.
  • Gallup published a statement several years ago about a huge mismatch between buyers’ and sellers’ perceptions of the value of the relationship. Who values the emotional factor?
  • Where do salespeople get the belief that they should be friends with the buyers? What do buyers want from the relationship? Techniques are easier to teach than likability.
  • A bright person can learn the features of any product well enough to sell it, but can’t always learn to approach buyers on the right personal level. Interpersonal skills are not easy for everyone.
  • Bridget does not hire “jerks.” In most instances, being nice carries you further.
  • You need resilience in the relationship, if and when things go wrong during the purchase.
  • Bridget recalls a sale with manufacturer production delays that were damaging to a buyer. Their past positive experiences helped them to see the purchase through.
  • Difficult situations call for increased communications, not for hiding from the customer. Overcommunicate. Do not let the relationship fall apart from neglect.

The Sales Enablement Podcast with Andy Paul was formerly Accelerate! with Andy Paul.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  0:56  

Hello and welcome to another edition of Frontline Friday with my very special guest Bridget Gleason. Bridget, how are you?


Bridget Gleason  1:26  

Andy I’m great.Now I’m in my new location, a new location here in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts.


Andy Paul  1:38  

Yeah, you realize you just moved from Boston not that long ago. And now you think again.


Bridget Gleason  1:48  

I know I guess there’s something magnetic here. I keep finding my way back. It hasn’t been intentional. But I keep finding my way back and I’m super happy to be here.


Andy Paul  1:59  

Good. And they’re way worse places you could be than being in Boston for sure.


Bridget Gleason  2:03  

It’s a little cold right now. I’m not used to spring where I need to wear big, huge parkas, and it’s 20 degrees but I’ll, I’ll embrace it. I’m embracing the change.


Andy Paul  2:16  

As I said, I think it’s gonna snow, two feet, probably four.


Bridget Gleason  2:26  

Where are you today?


Andy Paul  2:29  

I’m in beautiful Manhattan.


Bridget Gleason  2:31  

You know, you’re sharing my weather.


Andy Paul  2:34  

Yeah, yeah, we definitely are. Alright, so today, we’re gonna talk about relationships.


Bridget Gleason  2:41  



Andy Paul  2:42  

You say with a panic in your voice. Let’s do it. And we’re not gonna talk about your relationships. We’re good, though, if you want to. But we’re going to talk about relationships with buyers. Now, I heard somebody talk just within the last couple weeks and sell the speaker. And they sort of went on a little bit of a rant about how the buyer doesn’t want a relationship with a seller. And yeah, I guess it depends on your definition of relationship. And that could be true. But there is a relationship. I mean, you’re you’re connected with someone, there is a relationship. So I guess if your definition of a relationship means that you’re friends with your buyer, then I would agree they probably don’t want that. But I’d be really interested to delve into today. What does it mean to have a relationship with the buyer?


Bridget Gleason  3:32  

I think that’s a funny comment that the customers don’t want relationships with the buyers.

You know, over the Internet and they don’t interact with anyone and they’re not going to and it’s but other than that there is a relationship there. whether you want it or not. It’s just one kind of relationship is it? Well, I can be very loose. I have relationships with people that I I wouldn’t say they’re strong but people I come in contact with. But I think you, you’ve interacted with somebody to make some sale or some transaction. And yeah, I agree with you, maybe they don’t want to be friends.


Andy Paul  4:31  

I think there’s some people who say, look, a relationship with a buyer or prospect is some people immediately go to thinking well that means friendship. And I don’t think that’s what it means I’m so Deaf dictionary definition of relationship. One of them is and this is a quote is, our relationship is a quote, the way in which two or more concepts, objects or people are connected. What’s the state of being connected? 


Bridget Gleason  5:07  

Connection, connection. That’s right. There’s a connection. 


Andy Paul  5:11  

And that connection, but that doesn’t have to mean like, like in school when our kids Well, I like somebody, it seems like some people sort of feel like it’s that when they talk about relationships with buyers, that’s like, they have to like me like me, as opposed to just we got to be connected. We got to be on the same wavelength or alignment.


Bridget Gleason  5:39  

Yeah. And think about Andy, what makes a good relationship. And this is where I think a buyer or prospect does want a relationship with the seller. When I think about a good relationship, I think about trust. I think about transparency. I think about someone I can count on who’s dependable, lives up to their commitments.


Andy Paul  6:07  

Has integrity.


Bridget Gleason  6:08  

So I think about those relationships. I want the eye if I’m a prospect and I’m in a buying cycle, I want those things. I want to know that there’s trust and integrity and dependability. And I want that. That’s very important to me. So I think you’re right. I think there’s some confusion around the term and it’s not sales to me like when people talk about, Oh, I like relationship sales. I think some people get confused because that means we’re buddies. We like being together. We’re like they think about the very soft attributes of it. When I think It really is those more core fundamental things that are the ones that build, that really build value in the relationship. And the relationships that are sustained are the ones that are based on some of these fundamentals trust and integrity and dependability, that sort of thing.


Andy Paul  7:18  

And I think the relationship between a buyer and a seller is really a performance based relationship.


Bridget Gleason  7:25  



Andy Paul  7:26  

And so, buyers have a task that they’re trying to achieve, you know, they’re trying to gather information to quickly or quickly gather information to make good decisions about buying a product or service. And they need your help to be able to do that. So they have to be able to depend on you but you have to perform, you have to perform. If you can’t perform, then you don’t have a relationship with that buyer.


Bridget Gleason  7:53  

Well, and I think, in any relationship, there’s a give and take and relationships are also based on expectations. There’s a certain expectation I have of people that I’m in a relationship with and that they have of me. And it’s the same. It’s the same in a buyer seller or prospect seller, that there’s certain expectations on both sides. And like you said, in this case, it’s around performing a certain task or services or delivering something. But there are certain expectations that are required. And if those aren’t met, the relationship will likely go sour.


Bridget Gleason  8:41  

Yeah, it’s hard to have a good relationship without those.


Andy Paul  8:43  

Yeah. Well, I mean, in the past, I’ve talked about relationships or comparing it to the relationship I had with my golden retriever who unfortunately since I wrote the article, passed away but yeah, Golden Retriever named Riley, lovely, lovely dog, and and I said, Yeah, my relationship was that, you know, I take them on a walk three times a day. I feed them three times a day. I get down on the ground and play with them and roughhouse with them a couple times a day. And yeah, I know that there was no relationship we had, right. And that he loved me. But as soon as I left the door, and on a business trip, somebody else came in. They walked him three times a day, they fed on twice a day, they roughhouse with him. He was the object of their attention, or they were the object of his attention and affections. I think buyers are somewhat the same way if you’re not getting the job done for them. Now, they might like you, but it’s gonna be Yeah, I don’t have time for you. And we don’t have a relationship. I’ll go with the guy that’s the woman that’s giving me what I need to get my job done.


Bridget Gleason  9:55  

Yeah, because it’s based on these certain criteria. Our relationship is based on in the case of you and Riley, you throwing the ball and giving treats and giving attention. And when you’re not there, then Riley’s attention went elsewhere. 


Andy Paul  10:19  

But probably forgot me until I show up at the door and it’s like, oh, yeah, marine. empires are probably not too different from that, you know, if you’re not performing, but you’re just not in mind for them.


Bridget Gleason  10:31  

That’s right.


Andy Paul  10:32  

So think about a term I sort of come up with over the years is that it’s a little bit of an oxymoron. And yeah, sort of like jumbo shrimp is what the buyers want so they should feel positive neutrality about you.


Bridget Gleason  10:50  

God, I’d never thought of it that way.


Andy Paul  10:56  

Where it’s not like they don’t like you. That’s okay, that could be on the table. But by the same token is the cat not like you? Because that’s fatal. So I mean, it doesn’t hurt your chances if your prospects do like you but it’s not essential they do. I mean it does or if they dislike you because then you’re tough. That’s right.


Bridget Gleason  11:18  

Yeah, yeah, you’re right. It’s this positive neutrality at a minimum. I remember when I was working for Xerox and then also it was the same when I was working for this reseller for Hewlett Packard that they would move around the enterprise reps every couple of years to give new customers new territories. And part of the reason was they wanted the customers to develop relationships with the company of the person. And if they left the person in too long, sometimes the buyers would get confused and they would go follow Bridget if Bridget went to a competitor. Or Andy if Andy went to a competitor and they wanted to change it up enough that they would have that relationship with the company and feel that same sense of loyalty and sort of that performance based interaction. Because the company was delivering on its promise the company was dependable, the company was easy to deal with the company was reliable the company had integrity as opposed to the individual, but it just shows you also the power of the relationship and how whether we want to or not, those opinions are are being formed, about whether this is somebody who I want to engage with. And if I feel positively neutral, or stronger or not so strong whether you want it to or not. 


Andy Paul  12:59  

Yeah. Think about this positive, neutral positive neutrality. It reminds me of a conversation I had with John, a podcaster named Doug Sandler who’s got a podcast called the nice guys. Business podcast, I believe it’s called his book called nice guys finish first. And it’s really an interesting take on this belief based on his experience. Is that really the key thing that attracts people to want to do business with you? is being nice. And so you think about in the context of a relationship, I mean, you can be nice to someone and not necessarily say, yeah, I’ve got this emotional connection, right. We’re just nice and nice, and open doors. And so that way you can deal with you’re connected to this at that fairly neutral level of being nice. But it goes such a long way.


Bridget Gleason  13:59  

Well, people buy from people and we interact and prefer people that are we enjoy being around who are nice who don’t create friction in our lives so there’s definitely that.


Andy Paul  14:21  

Yeah, I think that’s really this whole topic for me. It gets back those really needed. I think we have in this profession sales is to be a bit more nuanced in the way we think about things. You know, the sort of black and white, they don’t want a relationship type. Yes, just nothing’s black and white. Right? There’s very little that’s black and white and what we do and so, I think for people who really want to succeed over the long run, you have to give some thought about Okay, things like this are relationships. What does a relationship mean? Because if you’re misguided and not you think it is right? If you think that the buyer has to like you, and has to like you like you, then you’re going to invest a lot of time and energy in building a relationship that’s not important to the buyer. No Gallup organization has surveyed salespeople over decades. One of the findings they had published on I think it was six, seven years ago I saw this is that there’s this huge mismatch between the buyers perception of the value of the relationship and the sellers perception of the value of the relationship with the buyer. Meaning the sellers think it’s more important that the buyer does not have this emotional connection.


Bridget Gleason  15:44  

Isn’t that interesting?


Andy Paul  15:48  

So it’s like, where do we get that idea? Right? Where do people are being trained? New to sales are people who have been in sales for a little while. Where are they getting this notion? Or are they confused, only people buy from people they know, like and trust. Oh, they’ve been confused by what the word? 


Bridget Gleason  16:07  

Yeah, but I think it’s harder. It’s easier to train to a technique, say these types of things, ask these questions. Make sure you do this kind of qualification. I think there’s some of those things that just in some ways are more technical in nature, but to tell someone be likable, and to try to break that down for someone, some of the interpersonal stuff I found that that’s, that’s that can be hard to teach.


Andy Paul  16:40  

So in your mind, but what’s the key to that? I mean, how do we because this is really what we’re talking about, is an interpersonal connection, but you’re making it with someone.


Bridget Gleason  16:51  

Well, I’ll tell you that my first manager at Xerox told me that I was hired into a very technical division at Xerox. And he said when he, his hiring philosophy was, you, if you’ve got a bright enough person, you can teach them just about anything technical, not technical, you’d teach them. But it’s very difficult to teach the interpersonal. That’s just a harder one. And I don’t disagree with that. I don’t think it’s impossible. But I do think some of the interpersonal is I think that’s, that’s more ingrained. And I think that is harder to teach. So I tend to, I tend to hire a persona or a person that sort of has more of that skill set naturally, and then you can work on it and you know, we can get better at just about anything. But I think somebody that has just maybe a little bit further along the way is I tend to hire that as opposed to trying to teach somebody Just soup to nuts what it’s like to be more personable and kind of that with some of those softer skills.


Andy Paul  18:08  

Have you ever interviewed anyone you thought? Wow, this person, this person has got a lot going on. But they’re just kind of a jerk.


Bridget Gleason  18:19  

Of course.


Bridget Gleason  18:22  

Yes. Do I hire those people? I don’t, right.


Bridget Gleason  18:28  

And obviously people do because they’re out there and they often do very well and some are quite successful. So it’s just not, I don’t, but that’s me. 


Andy Paul  18:43  

But in your mind does nice go further than being a smart jerk?


Bridget Gleason  18:52  

I think studies would support that nice goes further than being a smart jerk in most instances.


Andy Paul  19:00  

What? I think it does, too, I mean, I pass the question if I thought that’s what you would, you would respond, but give me an idea of the connection, the relationship. And, you know, because you said having these interpersonal skills to form this connection, is I think one things that people don’t think about and need to think of a little bit more about with the importance of this is that it’s what provides resilience during the buying process of the customer during your sales process, invariably, something’s gonna go wrong. Rarely do you have a buying process or selling process, that for a prospect that unfolds smoothly from point A to point B, right, from interest to decision. And I think the real importance of this relationship comes in the bears when things go bad, when things don’t go according to plan and not having that result. In the end, the connection is really quite important.


Bridget Gleason  20:07  

Yeah, I totally, totally agree that you are going to need that. Yeah, you’re definitely going to need that you’re going to need that resilience at some point in that connection. And you’re right, things don’t always go right. And they don’t always go well. And so to have some of that currency already built up, very important.


Andy Paul  20:34  

So can you give an example of one case near your past where it’s really been important?


Bridget Gleason  20:40  

God, I mean, I, one that goes to my mind. I don’t know why it was a long time ago, I was selling for Hewlett Packard or for this reseller for Hewlett Packard. And it was not the Hewlett Packard was having all of these delays with some of their workstations and this was a really critical All critical component that one of these cLose needs. And they were delayed and delayed and delayed. And I remember him just remain me about like, because it put them in a really compromised position. And the only thing that got us through it was that we had enough positive experiences to get over one that was really difficult. Yeah, there’s nothing I could do. And he knew it. And I was, you know, I think the thing, Andy, I’ve had so many of them when things go wrong, and it’s just to show up. It’s just to show up and be there and be again, this dependable, to be honest, to have integrity, transparency, accountability, and that those qualities are really important.


Andy Paul  22:03  

Yeah, I think it’s a great lesson for people listening and thinking, Okay, can you run into difficult situations? I see it all the time, there’s a tendency on the part of salespeople to want to hide. Sometimes it’s like, Well, have you been in touch with the customer? Well, I figured since I didn’t have anything new to tell them. This is like when something’s not going according to plan. This is not something new to tell me. Oh, no news is a good news type thing. It’s like no, no, no, you have to stay in touch. You have to be completely transparent, okay, over communicate with that point. Because they’re wondering what’s going on.


Bridget Gleason  22:41  

Absolutely, over, communicate. But that’s again, when the relationship helps get you through those rough patches, that they’re more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and continue as opposed to if they don’t have that relationship with you and that’s when it can really fall apart.


Andy Paul  23:03  

Yeah, no, I agree. All right. Well, Bridget, this is the end. We’ve come to the end.


Bridget Gleason  23:25  

Great thank you.


Andy Paul  23:31  

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to join us. If you haven’t already, make sure you go to iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you listen to this podcast, Google Play and subscribe to this podcast and leave a review. We really appreciate it. So until next time, this is Andy Paul and Bridget Gleason. Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for more information about today’s guests, visit my website at AndyPaul.com