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Is Relationship-Based Selling Dead? Navigating Modern Sales with Ryan Dohrn

Everyone knows that sales is a dynamic industry, but many people might not realize how to change tactics and keep up with modern trends.

Ryan Dohrn spent the last 25 years doing just that.

Ryan has worked in several industries with major companies over the course of his nearly three-decade career like Boeing, John Deer, the U.S. Army, Ford, and Bayer. He’s currently the founder of Sales Training World and a certified business coach working with over 75 companies.

Today, Ryan, Chris, and Rick discussed relationship-based selling and how millennial sellers are shaping the sales landscape.

Spoiler alert: old folks aren’t keeping up. But they can — and here’s how.

How the Selling Process Has Changed Over Ryan’s Tenure in Sales

40 or 50 years ago, the sales process looked a lot different.

You might take someone out to a nice steak dinner — wine and dine them a bit.

From there, things became very automated and heavily focused on metrics. So much so that some would say the relationship-based sales process is dead.

But is this necessarily a bad thing?

Stop Hating Millennials, Just Go with the Faster Flow

Ryan sees this problem all the time (and he’s 46 years old so he’s earned the right to make such critiques of old-school sellers).

Not only do Millennials have a ton of great qualities to bring to the table, but they can help make you a better person. The younger generation has a level of motivation, confidence, and determination that the older generation tends to lack — Millennials have passion.

Millennials will give you just as much respect as you give them.

Although relationship-based selling has squeezed its way out of the equation in a lot of ways, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The modern buyer tends to know themselves and what they want: selling is more transactional now.

So, in that respect, the entire sales process has become a lot faster overall. That’s the biggest change Ryan has seen.

Communicating with Prospects and Buyers

People love bashing on Millennials for the way they communicate.

This frustrates a lot of older sellers because the communication process has changed so much between social media platforms and email.

Is email even worth the effort anymore?

Ryan recommends becoming what he calls “platform agnostic” — go where the buyers go. Wherever your prospects are communicating is where you need to be, whether it’s Facebook, text messages, Twitter, or smoke signals.

If you’re not into texting people because it’s too personal, Ryan recommends getting over it — he had to. Sometimes people want to text or message back and forth between closing a deal.

Ryan points out research from Grasshopper that says you’re 30 times more likely to close a deal face-to-face with a client and 10 times more likely to close a deal over the phone.

Email? Eh, it’s not so great.

Get Specific with Email

Although email isn’t the best platform for communicating with prospects, you can’t just eliminate it from your toolbox.

Ryan recommends ensuring your emails are as specific as possible. Conduct some low-level reconnaissance on prospects before sending an email so it’s super relevant to them. You don’t have to be creepy — just check out their Facebook and LinkedIn.

Read their company’s press releases, listen to their podcasts, do some basic research, and then make some assumptions about how you can help them.

Ryan warns against using the spaghetti strategy for email marketing — throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. When you send out generic blasts, these emails won’t be relevant to many people so your chances of getting a bite are slim.

Instead, keep things as specific as possible.

How to Keep up Without Getting Left Behind

The most important thing is to allocate yourself time for what Ryan calls research and development. Getting a coach can help you manage the time and resources, Ryan says.

Ryan encourages sellers to consume lots of different media and knowledge in many forms like podcasts (including this one from the NASP), webinars, events, and blog posts. Events are great because they give you a chance to talk to others about whether on a professional or personal level.

Whatever industry you’re selling in, pay attention to all aspects of that industry like none other.

At the same time, it’s also important to learn about topics outside your industry. Not only will it help your current perspective, but you might even find something you enjoy even more.

Just make sure you don’t get too arrogant with your knowledge — use it strategically to connect with others.

How to Leverage Automation

Robots can’t do all the work but automation can make your job a lot easier.

So, how can you best leverage automation?

Ryan recommends using tools to complete simple tasks that normally take you a lot of time. For scheduling, use Calendly. For following up with leads that don’t reply, use an “If no reply” tool built into Google Suite or Outlook.

The key is for automation to help you become as effective and productive as possible. There are a bunch of easy-to-use and inexpensive tools out there — why not take advantage of them?

The Top 3 Items in Ryan’s Sales Toolbox

Ryan breaks down his go-to sales toolbox into three “buckets.”

  • Prospecting: Think of your goals for, say, a month and apply a set of metrics to it. Focus on booking enough meetings rather than closing enough sales.
  • Sales Presentation Skills: Spend time getting to know the prospect before the meeting — come ready with some solid (personalized) ideas.
  • Client Retention: Ryan recommends keeping it old school by sending handwritten thank you notes with small gift cards for a coffee shop near their work. It always costs less (between 5 and 25 times less) to keep a current client than close a new sale, so keep that in mind.

When in doubt, keep success stories handy. People don’t want to buy things if they don’t know whether or not they will work. Oh, and it helps to be an amazing storyteller, too.

In the market for a business coach? You can find Ryan at Sales Training World.

About the author

Rick Middlemass has almost a decade of experience in Entrepreneurship, Business Development & Sales.

Rick began his sales and entrepreneurial career at 18 opening up a new territory for Student Painters creating over 100K in new business over the next 3 years. Rick also worked in various sales & marketing roles & internships throughout his time at Michigan State University.

In his first role out of school Rick joined NuWave Technology, a Cisco Systems Premier Partner in Michigan, and quickly worked his way up to be:

2014 Sales Person of the Year
2015 Sales Person of the Year
16 Time Sales Person of the Month

Rick Middlemass now works with the National Association of Sales Professionals helping salespeople and sales leaders reach their true potential and continue to grow through our behavioral conditioning programs.