The One-Two Punch of Customer Relationships

Are your current business relationships strong enough to survive this new economic environment? Will a competitor be able to get some business by offering an incentive or discount? Do your marketing and sales people understand how to cultivate relationships to prevent this? This is an ideal time to analyze relationships to see how “competitive proof ” they really are.

There are two types of relationships you should be pursuing:  one is the relationship between your sales people and the customer’s buying team. Usually, the buying team is focused on the sales person’s ability to be knowledgeable, competent, and trustworthy as a business advisor. Even when budgets are cut and top management presses down to lower costs, the buyers often will still retain your company based on past performance, trust, and the basic fear of having to find someone else to “break in.” When is this type of relationship in jeopardy? Normally when someone in the buying team is replaced, promoted, or the buying decision moves to another department. Now the individual relationship is at risk.

The second type of relationship can help you avoid this risk. It is based more on your highly valued business’s benefits to the customer company, and also because you are aligned with the customer’s corporate business strategy and critical success factors. You have helped the company achieve their goals and because of that a larger number of key management knows that you assisted in this success. So ask yourself, do your relationships transcend your salesman’s contacts? If they do not, you need to change the focus of their efforts. Remember, this type of relationship will not be affected by downturns, promotions, and reorganizations; therefore, it will be very difficult for a competitor to take your place in the hearts and minds of your customer.

Examine your relationships and focus on moving them to a higher level.

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