Are Relationships For $ale?

by Jay Deragon on 11/28/2008

Are Relationships For $ale?Prior to the Industrial Revolution the task of selling was relatively simple. All firms had to do was meet the growing demand of consumers buying new things.

It was very common for one person to perform all tasks of the business. The proprietor was focused on producing and meeting orders; selling, marketing, and accounting were regarded as secondary because the market demand was abundant.

The Industrial Revolution brought about organizational changes to businesses. Industries were now producing mass quantities of millions of different products. Because buyers could not absorb all the products, an increase in sales coverage was needed to relieve the excess created by large factories.

The emergence of sales divisions within corporations solved many logistical problems and increased the quantity of potential customers. However, sales representatives generally had very little feedback within the company and were viewed as contracted help. They were paid strictly on a commission basis, so they had very little loyalty to either the firm for which they worked or the customers to whom they sold the products. As long as the proper allotments of products were being shipped and the sales representatives were meeting pre-determined quotas, firms generally took very little notice of what consumers wanted. These practices remained unchanged until the early 1980s when “quality” became the modern management mantra of the day.

The economic expansion of the1990s led to a flurry of development in all business sectors. Advances in technology, especially in the information sector, have increased competition between firms and heightened the awareness of the average prospect and customer. Increased access to information has forced sales representatives to change their methods.

Sales techniques have changed over time to meet the ever increasing demands from informed customers. It has become imperative in today’s business environment to gain the trust of prospects and customers by first focusing on building relationships based on common affinities and objectives.

Advances in Technology: The Changing Role of Relationships

Are Relationships For $ale?Today, relationship “connections” enabled by the social web has created business transparency were anything and everything about a firms relationship with its market, its employees and its customers can easily be discovered at the click of a mouse. Increasingly, as consumers gain more access to others and information about the products they use, firms have been forced to “come clean”, in a sense, about their promises for performance and customer service.

In a relationship-based environment, the critical factors necessary to make a sale are trust and confidence – which take time to build. Trust and confidence are attributes driven by the quality of the relationship and performance on promises made by the marketing hype of your products and services.

If your product or service doesn’t perform as promised the only thing that can keep the customer engaged is a relationship. You don’t sell relationships you build and earn them. The best kind of sale comes from existing customers either buying more or referring someone else to your business. This process is the result of relationships satisfied with their relationship with you.

The social web enables anyone to “connect” to everyone and the depth of those relationships vary. However, everyone is a customer of someone and as customers we are either satisfied and brag about out experiences or we can complain, one to one to millions.

People aren’t for sale (although many act as if they are) and neither are their relationships. Businesses sell products and services by building relationships. The quality of your relationships can significantly impact your sales. That is why we call it The Relationship Economy.

What say you?


Sunny February 29, 2008 at 11:58 am

relationship for sale- $500 bucks a pop.

i’ll provide personal interest in your health, well-being, prosperity, and hobbies… i’ll refer to you by first name, remember your birthday, and send you funny pictures of cats at no extra charge…

but wait, that’s not all- if you order now, you also get free photoshopped pictures of us having a great time at the beach, climbing Mt. Everest, and walking on the moon !!


we do sell ourselves, and everyday- it’s simply that the nature of these ‘sales’ is usually below the level of conscious thought. it’s how we have learned to be in this world… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

personally, i have deliberately taken steps to avoid being mercenary in my relationships… i don’t ‘want’ anything from anyone… i try to see every person as unique, individual, and powerful… if i offer any product or service, it is specifically aimed at improving life or solving a problem… i dislike the monetary and materialistic associations applied to people, and go out of my way to keep all my relationships real.

let’s remember that most scams involve a stranger entering our circle of trust, slipping past our defenses, because they know exactly what our weaknesses are, and how to play upon our fundamental desire for love and friendship. anyone else out there been scammed?

i thought i was alone…

Sunny (keeping it real)

Jay Deragon February 24, 2008 at 11:59 am


Ironically your question fits very well with a post I’ve been developing and will release this week. Stay tuned….

Rusty Weston February 24, 2008 at 11:30 am

Nice post Jay. Thinking of your concept a bit literally, I am curious to know whether you’re seeing instances of professional middlemen on social networks? I would be interested in hearing about people using social networking (rather than phone, email or live meetings) to sell access to their contacts for the purpose of professional networking, career advancement or business introductions.

Margaret Orem February 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Some people do attempt to profit on “selling” their relationships, which presumably were founded and established on the basis of trust. On many occasions, I have been asked to provide my contacts’ information on an open-to-everyone “network” site for the sole purpose of making a trinket if x, y, or z, happened to that contact down the road.

There are many individuals who do not perceive this as an ethical matter, as I perceive it to be. Any personal contact, however minimal, is the beginning of a relationship and hopefully, not the culmination. As such, it is worthy of respect and care as the contact’s information has been entrusted to the receiver.

We have two things in current discussion here:

1. Selling to and leveraging existing and new relationships for personal or business advantage (in the good sense), and
2. Selling of relationships.

The Relationship Economy will begin to diminish this distinction in my judgment and perhaps, in a few years, the ethical question will become subsumed and inconsequential in that evolution.

Michael Pokocky February 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Bonus 3: Somewhere on the Net someone commented,”n the age of Radical Transparency leading to Radical Trust and is a reflection of Radical Authenticity (thanks Michael Pokocky coining this term!),

Need I say anymore unless anyone wants to commission me to do research on this and I would consider it on my terms and with no guarantees. That idea of “quarantee” is one other problem I see in this conversation. Who is right? Who is wrong? I believe we will have our answers and experiences after a few years when the social networking “plateau” will eventually arrive if it hasn’t already, and then there will be new things to talk about. I see no end.

Does Anyone?

Michael Pokocky February 23, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Transparency is the most often overlooked factor in “any” relationship.

Add to that the idea that online “personas” and “conversations” are not what they would be in real “face-to-face” encounters with people in real life.

To me the web is a form or “Art & Entertainement.” What makes one stop at a page for more than 8 seconds. Design.

This must imply that even before conversations take place and new relationships begin one’s online “persona” must be Web 2.0 conditional and asthetically pleasing.

Thus back to the basics. Web representation of yourself is design and it must be transparent.

So if we are to look at the question, are relationships for sale the answer would be, I don’t know.

Thus we have a conundrum and the whole idea of “trust” online becomes an issue of Art and Entertainment through capturing your potential “new” contacts.

What a lot of work. I think the “best” anyone can hope for is to work with what you got. Work with the people you know who “trust” you and build these relationships. This creates the dynamic of Social Interactive Exchange that is dearly missing.

The future prediction is Relationships will not be for sale and never will be because it violates human nature and our beliefs about “trust.” Remember what you put on the Net is then part of the Net and sticks to you like Post It Notes or fly paper and therefore that is why I caution with all due respect we govern ourselves online as we would in the real world.

I don’t know who said this, but never say anything that you don’t want to see in the news the next day.

Kind Regards,

Michael Pokocky

Bonus: It is time to realize that the Relationship Economy is directly proportional to your online “trust” and this is very difficult to achieve because of the time and energy required. Hence I predict that small groups of people will form “trusted” environments on the Net and this “group” can then socially interact with other “trusted” groups on the Net.

Bonus 2: The collaborative concentric networking model implies the development of small “interest” or “value” or some other form of tie in where small groups of people will congregate. No matter how many people you “have” in your social networks, the ones that count are the ones you would “trust” with your most “intimate” conversations and know that your “small concentric group of friends” are there to support, to encourage and to help.

Ange T. February 23, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Hi Jay — I think I have mentioned the concept of “Guanxi” before. Which is the establishment of long-term business relationship, involving trust.

Would be most happy to share with you more on it. I have intended to blog about it too but other news seemed to grab my attention.

Btw, many thanks for helping me further my cause for world domination 😀

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