We’ve all heard that the key to success is sales. Well this just in: The key to business success is actually relationships.

A successful business stems from winning and keeping customers. And the key to winning and keeping customers is, and has always been, relationships.

You have been told that spending time building your personal brand, growing your social media network, improving your productivity, identifying your strengths, and engaging your employees, among other things, will make you successful. They will help you, but they certainly cannot stand alone. Building real relationships with real people in the real world is the key ingredient, and here’s why.

Your most important asset is not your virtual network – it’s your real one. Every successful executive and entrepreneur will tell you, their most important asset is their network, and they don’t mean social network. They mean people they actually know and work with in real time because they are the ones that actually get things done. One real relationship in the real world is worth way more than any social media link, like or follower.

Sales transactions are between two real human beings. Even in the age of the internet and businesses alike, most sales transactions are still between two human beings. Whether B2C or B2B, a transaction involves a buyer and a seller. And the best product doesn’t necessarily win. Buyer behavior is mostly subjective and relationships are a big factor, because emotions are the #1 influence of purchase. Most people don’t just buy a product, they buy a feeling and an experience. In a service business (and don’t we all provide a service, whether outright or not), the relationship is the biggest factor, hands down.

When opportunity knocks, it’s always a person knocking … and answering. Whether behind a screen or not, there is a person engaging. As much as we like to fantasize about opportunities just falling in our laps, the truth is, that rarely happens. Of the thousands of career and business opportunities we all experience, every single one involved a real person and a real relationship. Every job, every piece of advice, every business deal.

A business has to grow, and it stems from the roots placed. Those roots are relationships, and the better you foster those, the faster and stronger the landscape becomes. I’m not taking away from a good sales pitch, but people buy from what they like and hear. How many times have you not purchased something because you didn’t like how you were being sold to? And how many times have you purchased something because you trusted the person sharing the story of how that product will help you.

Break the old rules. Remember, people don’t have relationships with products. They have relationships with you. Sell yourself, cultivate loyalty, and business will bloom from there.

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