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Jeff Schmidt

Your Last Conversation Is The Relationship


She was 18, he was 19. They were high school sweethearts. When her death parted them in 2003, Mom and Dad had been married 49 years. Dad always told me: A solid relationship is not a 50/50 deal, it's actually 100/100. He said, "If you want a strong relationship, one that will last, you have to give 100 percent no matter what you think you're getting in return.

You've been to your fair share of sales seminars. Most focus on prospecting and new business development, doing a customer needs analysis, and making the presentation. Trainers swerve through objections handling and arrive promptly at closing the sale. Don't get me wrong, these are critical phases of the selling process and need great training. What's missing is the key ingredient that HAS to be in place before ANY of that other stuff matters -- The Relationship.

Betsy Rozelle owns Rozelle Communication and is passionate about helping people become effective affinity builders. Betsy has some great thoughts on relationship building and shared them with me:

"Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi is famous for developing a winning team by starting with the fundamentals "Gentleman, this is a football."

"Trainers usually assume people already know about the basic building blocks of relationship development and how to successfully use those skills. At Rozelle Communication, I approach training differently. The football in each of my training sessions is the basic concept of affinity.

"Affinity, as it relates to interpersonal relationships, is the connection between and among people, based on common experiences, passions, and interests. The ability to discover and develop those connections is the key to successful relationship building.
"The first 3 steps to a successful relationship with a prospect or client are very basic, but crucial:
1. CARE about people. Thank you, Captain Obvious. The term care is trite, but unless you truly care about your individual prospects and clients as people, you wont last long in a sales career.

2. USE FIRST AND LAST NAMES. When you introduce yourself to others, always make strong eye contact, along with a firm handshake, and give your first and last name. If the person youre meeting gives you only his/her first name, be sure to ask what the last name is. It seems counter-intuitive but when you disclose only your first name and accept only their first name, youre de-personalizing yourselves at the initial meeting. Im Betsy Rozelle . . . not Betsy Smith, not Betsy Ross. Bonus: In almost every case, the last names you share with each other will spark some recognition or affinity (e.g. Oh, are you related to Pete Rozelle?" . . . or, I went to high-school with a Rozelle). Seize upon the opportunity to find commonalities right from the start. Ask a specific question about their name.

3. SEEK AND TELL STORIES. Another way to show you care about your prospects/clients is to first engage them in a conversation about their background, interests, and experiences. Capitalize on where interests/experiences intersect (Wasnt Tuscany amazing? I was there five years ago and it was my best trip ever.)  Or, if you dont see many similarities between your experiences and your clients, build affinity by showing an interest in some of the experiences that s/he shared (Ive never had a motorcycle, but I admire my neighbors Harley from a distance. Have you ever been to a Harley rally? I heard those are some major fun.)
"You and your prospect/client will both walk away from your first meeting feeling that you have made an important personal connection and that you are in this thing together.  The relationship building takes root from there."

Carolyn Schmidt is my wife, business partner, and Ignition Specialist at Sparque. On a recent presentation call with a potential client she said, "So where do we go from here?" The client responded, "We were waiting to see what kind of close you were going to use on us." Carolyn responded, "I'm not trying to close anything, I'm trying to open a business relationship." The prospect and his team were impressed; the business relationship commenced.

To cultivate communities of clients for long-term success, start with the relationship. Find and build affinity, care about their problems, offer valuable solutions, and youll gain not only a client but also a friend for life.

Think Big, Make Big Things Happen!

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc.You can reach him at,, follow him on Twitter @JeffreyASchmidt, or connect via LinkedIn 
Reach Betsy Rozelle at: