The world is full of sales people who claim, quite proudly, to have great relationships with their customers. If that were true, it really would be great. But unfortunately, "great relationships” is too often a veil that sales people hide behind to keep from exposing the weakness in their sales skills.

Here's how it works. An experienced sales person believes that he/she has developed great relationships with customers. Therefore, he spends his time visiting these great customers, and focusing on maintaining the relationship. He can't really dig deeper into the motivations and needs of the customer because he's never really had those conversations before, and to do so would interject a new and disparate element into the relationship. Better to not take the risk.

He doesn't present the new product or service too strongly, because, after all, it might jeopardize the relationship. And besides, he knows this customer well enough to know that they would never be interested in this new product.

He never closes or asks for a resolution of an offer, because he doesn't want to hear a rejection from that great relationship. Too risky. And he continues to invest selling time in this account, regardless of its potential, because to do any less would be to jeopardize the relationship

The relationship becomes the end, instead of a means to an end.

Paralyzed by the idea of "great relationships” the sales person forgoes the basics of consultative selling, and loses track of the essential function of sales and the heart of the sales person's job – to bring revenue into the company. Striving for, and protecting "great relationships” becomes a deterrent to effective selling. It is, particularly among more experienced sales people, one of the biggest obstacles to sales productivity.

I've often thought that some marginally-performing sales people, aware of their lack of sales skills, intentionally hide behind the screen of "great relationships” to excuse their lack of results.

The cold hard truth in sales is this: In business, the relationship is a means to an end. Business in general, and sales specifically, is not the same as family, friends, or romance in that the relationship is not an end in itself. In sales, if the relationship doesn't result in revenue coming into the business, then the relationship is not valuable.

The result is the reason for the relationship. The measurement of the depth and power of a business relationship is not how much you know about the customer, nor how well you get along. The measurement of a business relationship is the amount of dollars generated. If the relationship really is great, then the account would be buying everything from you.

Dave Kahle is one of the world's leading sales authorities. He's written 12 books, presented in 47 states and 10 countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. His book, "How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime," has been recognized by three international entities as "one of the five best English language business books.” His latest book is called "The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”