Here in what is called the Western part of the world, we have – as a culture – traditionally taken a reductionist approach to many of the questions we face in life:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • Which organ is failing and how can we singularly fix it?
  • Who is the best rock band of all times?

We bring this “number one”, singular focused, reductionist approach to discussions related to sales as well:

  • Does cold calling work?
  • Can you generate business on LinkedIn?
  • Which is more important – a sales process or the relationship with a customer?

The arguments go on for days……

Unfortunately, we can get stuck in this paradigm of “which one is the best”.

I observed as a child in California that some students who came from other cultures had trouble with this ranking system that comes so naturally to us westerners. I remember specifically a new student from Japan being utterly stumped when asked what his favorite color was.

It didn’t occur to me at the time – as a child – his confusion about this simple question just seemed weird, as so many things do when we are young and see something unfamiliar. As an adult, and upon further reflection and increased exposure to other cultures I realized that whether he knew it consciously or not, it must have seemed incredibly odd to him that he had to choose. Isn’t the world wonderful because of the spectrum of colors and the way that they all take their place?

Of course it is.

So why do we feel the need to ask what the one thing is that is the most important about sales?

When I write, coach and train salespeople and sales managers, I tend to lead with process – it has worked well for me as a point of departure. As we go through the process, we can see how the non-process elements fit in and how we can improve them. Process becomes the anchor point for all of the elements that relate to sales.

When I tell people that I LEAD with process, many go on to tell me that process is limiting, and relationships are the most important.

Of course relationships are important – but is that the one thing? Unless great care is taken, these conversations can quickly fall into “Process versus Relationship”, as if either was “the one thing”.

Imagine these two specific concepts at the extreme to see the ridiculousness of it all:

  • If a salesperson was strictly committed to a rigid process and never deviated from it in spite of any communication or feedback from a customer, you would have a robot.
  • Conversely, if a salesperson was so overly focused on relationships, they would probably be so busy working on rapport and the emotional state of the prospect that they would never get to the stuff that leads to a successful close.

The truth is clearly somewhere in between.

  • Salespeople who want to be successful should have some idea of where they want to go as they work through a sales transaction.
  • They should go through these “steps” interactively with the prospect – so that they can connect to them as a person along the way, and build trust and confidence and ultimately a relationship.
  • They should educate themselves in their business so that they can add value as they go through the process of helping the prospect,
  • And in spite of the steps they envisage in their own process, these steps need to include recognition of the process that the prospect is going through – the so-called buying process.

So which of these things is most important?

The fact is, it is a silly question. It is all important. If you want to be successful in sales, I suggest that you make a map of how you think things should go, educate yourself to add value through the journey, and remain open to the human being you are working with and their needs as you go through the sales journey together.

It is a holistic approach to selling. That’s important. In fact – maybe the most important thing about selling is that you don’t limit yourself to some single most important thing, except the pursuit of success and the many elements that lead to it.



Hi, I’m David Masover. With nearly three decades of B2B sales experience, I work as a private practice Sales Force Development Consultant. I help company leaders understand the root causes of sales issues that keep revenue from growing as fast as it could, and to fix those problems through work with reps, managers, systems, processes, strategies, and tools. You can learn more about me and my work and/or get in touch with me here at my web site or on LinkedIn at