Relationship or Just Another Transaction? – by David Tovey

Some people are talking relationships but acting transactionally

Whilst researching my next book I have had dozens of 1-2-1 conversations and observed hundreds of business people at exhibitions and networking events in the UK and Internationally.

Many of the business people I have met talk a good game about the long-established principles of know, like, trust and building long term relationships. They even seem to understand that the day of the predatory, self-interested sales person is over and intellectually ‘get’ that the way customers buy has fundamentally changed in the social media age. Intellectually they seem to understand that you should not ‘sell’ to the people they network with but rather they should seek to build a referral community. They seem to understand about adding value and investing in important relationships.


I have come to the conclusion that too many business people TALK about building long term trusted relationships yet behave as if they were trained at the ‘always be closing’ school of sales training. They expect others to invest in building relationships with them but act in a transactional way towards others.

They ‘know’ for instance that to build trust they need to show genuine interest in what others say yet can’t wait to interrupt and talk about themselves. They come to life when pitching their own product or service yet glaze over and lose interest when others talk about their business.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to make an enthusiastic presentation, there is a time to influence and sell. The problem is that too many people who claim to understand about building trusted relationships and referral networks, are trying to ‘sell’ too early, long before they have earned the right to tell their story.

It’s not just about being ‘bright’ or ‘right’

I have coached over a thousand professionals in business development skills. When I first worked with very bright people I quickly learned first-hand that being ‘bright’ had very little to with how good they were at building referral networks and winning business. I have lost count of how many struggling technology businesses are led by software engineers and programmers who tell me that a good product ‘sells itself’.

And it’s not just professionals who struggle with the concept that business is about much more than being good at what you do.

The emotional experience of buying

All the top performers I have met in business produce greater results than their peers because they understand the emotional experience of buying. They know how to earn the right, through building human relationships, to share the value they add to their customers and clients. They are acutely aware of how human behaviour works and how to suppress any tendency to pitch their products or services too early. They understand that buying is an emotional experience where logic plays a part only to justify the emotional decision that had been made.

I am not saying that the quality of your product or service doesn’t matter – it does. No one will do business with you or refer you if you have a reputation for not delivering as promised. Understanding that emotion plays a huge part in whether you get the chance to prove yourself in the first place is critical to success.

No matter what you sell, emotions play a huge part in the outcomes of your networking conversations, your 1-2-1 meetings and all your business interactions. Right from the start potential buyers or referrers are asking themselves if they like you and fewer things make a ‘seller’ unlikable than pitching themselves or their business too early.

Most business people I meet have invested a great deal of time in developing their business offer, many of them need to invest at least the same amount of time developing the awareness and skills involved in applying emotional intelligence to their networking activities.


David Tovey is a motivational speaker, coach, consultant and author of Principled Selling – How to Win More Business Without Selling Your Soul, published by Kogan Page. With over 25 years of sales and marketing experience, David works with individuals and organisations to help them achieve outstanding sales growth with a joined up approach to inbound marketing, social media, sales, major account management and sales leadership. You can contact David at You also can connect with him at Twitter and LinkedIn.


Get your free preview of Chapter 1 from Selling Fearlessly.

Check out the 86 reviews for Selling Fearlessly at