The Nature of Relationship Marketing

November. 2005. 11:45 a.m. Maggiano’s Little Italy. St. Louis.

I’m standing in the bar area with a puzzled look on my face. My client set up a meeting between me and one of his salespeople, but something in the back of my mind is telling me I’m at the wrong restaurant. Armed with my flip phone (it was 14 years ago, after all), I needed to look up the manager’s number to call and confirm the location.

Luckily, the concierge had a phone book, and the guy sitting at a hightop let me borrow the corner of his table so I could unload my arms.

Phone call successful. I’m in the right place. All is well.

“Thank you for letting me borrow your table,” I say, as I start to close my portfolio. Joe (I later learned) reaches across the table, slaps his hand on my portfolio so I can’t close it, points to the Yellow-Tie logo on the letterhead hiding behind the flap and asks: “Are you with Yellow-Tie?”

“Yes.” “I started it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m the founder of Yellow-Tie.”

“Are you Gill Wagner?”

“Yes I am. Are you interested in Yellow-Tie?”

“No. I manage a 65-member sales team and I hear you’re the best sales trainer in town.”


That is what success looks like in relationship marketing. Seemingly out of nowhere, a prospect armed with nothing more than knowledge of your company and an impression of your reputation reaches seemingly out of the blue and engages.

This particular relationship-marketing effort began 11 months earlier when I launched Yellow-Tie, a nonprofit association for salespeople (and the key component of my marketing plan for my sales training company).

After meeting with Lester and discussing his team, I learned the three value-based touches that produced this opportunity were:

  1. One of Lester’s salespeople attended a free, Yellow-Tie networking event. During that event I had given her a piece of sales advice that helped her close a huge client.
  2. She and I had a subsequent one-hour conversation over coffee where I offered her some additional guidance.
  3. I gave her a referral that turned into another sale.

Three value-based touches given without expectation of any direct return.

The result was that she told her boss I was the best sales trainer in town.

That’s how relationship marketing works.