A few years back, Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson published a blog post on HBR called Selling Is Not About Relationships. The post, which challenged the idea that top sales performers use relationship selling, got tons of attention. But that post, and that idea, isn’t entirely correct. Here’s why.

In today’s digital economy, salespeople have more tools than ever to build, optimize and scale intimacy, allowing them to leverage relationships as powerful selling tools.

According to Anthony Iannarino, Sales Kickoff Speaker and Sales & Marketing Leader, “All things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win.”


Winning and retaining customers is all about value creation. What Dixon and Adamson argued was that relationships alone are not enough to create value. You need relationship value, which means trust between two people, and in addition to that, economic value creation as well.

In other words, you need to do more than talk to each other like friends, go to lunch together and the like. You need something more. You need both intimacy and economic value.

intimacy-at-scale2.pngBut intimacy isn’t supposed to be scalable.

Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, studied relationships among chimpanzees and found that like the monkeys, as humans, we have a finite number of relationships we can maintain. This limitation is specifically because of the number of folds in our neocortex, our substrate. That number is about 150 total.

In Dunbar’s research the best people can handle up to 225 people, at the top end.

But because we’re in a digital age, we’re not limited by the substrate in our brain. We have silicon chips that help expand our capacity for relationships.

We can now use digital tools to establish more relationships, manage them with greater efficiency and scale their success. The greater question is, how do we do this — how do we create intimacy at scale?

Watch Anthony Iannarino’s session at Digital Sales Camp to find out how you can manage your time, energy and resources by leveraging the ideal digital tool stack (your phone, CRM, social marketing and even mail) to create intimacy at scale and drive sales.

Iannarino’s talk goes beyond The Challenger Customer to show how, contrary to popular belief, relationship selling is not dead.


Julia Manoukian

Author: Julia Manoukian

Julia is focused on creating, managing and producing everything content-related at Sales for Life. From product to content marketing, she is committed to constantly evolving the company's marketing strategy to exceed the demands of the ever-changing buyer.

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