Selling in a Personal Relationship

The last blog talked about a key ingredient that all successful professionals share. The ability to sell. The focus was on successful careers. What about selling within a personal relationship? A boyfriend and girlfriend or maybe a husband and wife. What about parents and children or between friends? I believe that selling is not only present in those relationships, but critical.  Successful selling is made up of certain skills that are paramount in building relationships between individuals.

The first of those skills or abilities is listening. I usually talk about the difference between active and passive listening. But there is another type of listening, according to my wife. That’s selective listening. I used to think that selective listening was a term that was only used by marriage counselors to explain why I didn’t help with the dishes when asked. Here’s the deal.  I had been watching the game when she asked me to help. It was 3rd and goal with only 60 seconds left. If I had taken time to explain why I couldn’t help right then, the play would have been over and the outcome of the game decided while I was in the kitchen. I was listening. Sort of.

However, as I reflect on my own experiences in personal and business situations, the term selective listening makes sense. Passive listening and selective listening can easily be confused. To me, passive listening is listening without hearing. Selective listening is hearing only what you choose to hear. So, of these categories of listening, there is only one that builds a relationship…active listening. Active listening means paying attention to the details of the story and asking for clarification at times. It means making remarks that show understanding and interest. Let’s circle back to the title of this blog, Selling in a Personal Relationship. Here’s an important rule in business and personal connection development. There is no real communication without active listening and without communication there is no selling, therefore no connection. So, active listening is a critical building block in any relationship.

There are, of course, other selling skills that transcend business into our personal lives. One might be needs satisfaction. When I’m selling a product or service I must uncover the needs of my prospect before I can show that my proposal will satisfy those needs. It’s also impossible to build a meaningful personal relationship without understanding the needs of your friend or partner. How can I do what makes you happy if I don’t know what makes you happy? Uncover their needs.

To uncover their needs, you must ask good questions. Asking good questions makes me a better father, husband, and friend. Questioning skills are the backbone of discovering the need you want to fulfill. Questioning isn’t necessarily an easy skill to learn and when undertaken clumsily can often do more damage than good. An example might be,”So, what did you get accomplished today?” This question seems to have a hidden meaning, making the other person feel defensive. Maybe it’s better to say “Tell me about your day.”


What if you ask your child, “Did you have a good day at school?” The answer you will get is probably “Yes.” With that brief answer you still don’t know more than you did before you asked it. Instead, you could ask, “What did you do at school that was really fun?” You just might get an answer that opens up the conversation to more specifics. Ask good questions.

In sales, we build a relationship by showing an interest in the hobbies and experiences of the prospect or customer. It’s the same when building a personal relationship. People love to talk about themselves, so encourage that discussion. Listen actively by asking good questions . Make comments that show you have genuine interest.  img_0050

Another powerful tactic to build any relationship is by asking the person to help you learn something or teach you something that you struggle with.  “I would really appreciate some suggestions that might improve my golf game. Maybe you can give me some tips to improve my score.” Or, “It’s obvious you are very successful at managing people. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned that helps you manage successfully?” Or, “It’s always a struggle for me to know what to wear to these business parties, but you always seem to choose the right look. How do you do it?”


Or, “Wow! You put that Lego tower together so fast. It looks great. What’s your secret?” People will almost always try to help you, once you recognize their ability and honestly ask for help. Be humble. Ask for help. “I had a great time tonight. How about you continue helping me locate the rest of the planets over dinner next Friday?” Or, “Do you think we could build more things with your Legos after you get home from school? You’re so good at it.” “Thanks Mom. I’d love to show you what else we can build.” Or, “You’re such a good friend and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with me. I think it will help me understand my boss better. I hope we can finish our conversation very soon. How about coffee at my house Saturday morning?”

The last selling skill I want to mention is the icing on the cake. The skill that completes the journey is closing the sale. In personal relationships, just like in sales, we never get what we desire unless we ask. Don’t be afraid. Get the idea? Ask for the order.

The skills we use in building a personal relationship have a lot in common with the skills we use when selling a new account.






Steve Haberly

In my next blog you will learn to Recognize the Personal Disconnect and possibly save your failing relationship.


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