The emergence of Sales 3.0: Why “leading” trumps “relationship building”

All things being equal, relationships invariably win. However, what happens when your competitors are equally adept at developing relationships? Then leverage becomes critical.


Decades ago, selling was noticeably different than today. Customers were ill informed, if not downright ignorant to tactics like cold calling and pyramid schemes. In short, manipulative salespeople could thrive by focusing their attention on honest and naive people.

Towards the 90s, customers began to emerge from the dark ages. The information explosion created a distinct shift in consumer behaviour. Customers started to educate themselves. They could research, compare offers, and in ways take back control of the sales process. The internet empowered and informed customers. Sales 2.0 was born.

B2B salespeople soon realised to be successful they had to honour their relationships with customers. And customers loved this, often using it to their own advantage. Long lunches, promos, discounts and free overseas trips were met with delight. Added to this, customers got a real sense of how they should and wanted to be treated. They were also no longer willing to suffer fools or be treated like one. The customer struck back!

Twenty years later a new king is emerging. Business is hyper-competitive with many markets stagnating or failing. But despite these trying times, a certain type of salesperson is still thriving.

These salespeople know how to create and develop relationships, but they also recognise that’s not enough. They are prepared to break convention and dispute what’s not working to set new standards, and most importantly lead clients into new markets. Key to this movement is their ability to empower customers with “critical information” that transforms key business functions, accelerates capabilities and creates new profit pathways.

Relationships don’t always evolve, yet in a world now spinning faster than ever, they need to. Change is all around us, as markets shift, information expands and customers demand more.

In some cases, customers know more about your product or service than you do. To deepen your connections with them, you now need to evolve your relationships and grow them forward. Taking risks, championing innovation, leveraging “on the ground” strategies, tactics and insights and leading your clients through uncertainty, is certainly part of it.

The “relationship” was once a sacred cow, now it’s a given. Customers want more than a friend. They also crave someone to help them evolve to gain and maintain their advantage. They need a “trusted advisor” who is willing and able to successfully lead them through a confusing and ever changing environment.

In Sales 2.0, “the relationship” was king. In Sales 3.0, the sales “leader” rules.

Trent Leyshan is the founder and CEO of BOOM Sales! a leading sales training and sales development specialist. He is also the creator of The NAKED Salesman, BOOMOLOGY! RetroService, and the Empathy Selling Process.


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