The relationship battleground is different from the Emotional and Political battlefields. What this is about is the quality of relationship that you as an individual has with one or more of the executives in the evaluation process.
What is important is that it is differentiated. Some customers are just very social or very venal. If you offer them a night out on the beer, or dinner at a good restaurant or a trip to the local striptease club, they will say yes. The question you have to ask is “do they also say yes if asked by the competition?”. Moving away from the question of strip clubs let me give you some examples of when Relationships have been differentiated. In a new business deal recently with a telecoms company I was a little late onto the deal and yet I had a very good relationship with the key technical evaluator.
I met with him and his behaviour was very different from normal in the meeting. For several days I could not get through to him and then he called me up and asked to meet for a beer. What he told me was that he had already made up his mind months ago that he was going to buy from the competitor, and that as soon as he realized I was on the deal he rushed through his recommendation, and the contracts were awarded to my competitor because he did not want me to waste my time! Not exactly the outcome I was looking for, but an analysis of the relationship battlefield would show that I had indeed a winning position in the relationship battlefield; I had just lost on all the other battlefields! Unlike in this example, having a good relationship with one or more executives is a very good indicator of a successful outcome. I have been coached by friends when my sales messages have been off target, I have been told who the most important executives to see are, and what the “real” agenda is.
The best kind of relationship with a customer is based on trust and respect of your competence (not on your ability to perform in a Karaoke parlor). This can be the most important battlefield if you are the incumbent in a major account. If you have provided good service over several years, you will be given every help to win the evaluation.