“As a customer grows, so does the number and types of people with whom we need good relationships”

Just the other day one of our sales people found out that a customer requested a quote from one of our competitors for a similar product that we already provide to them.  The person that made the request was one that we did not have a key relationship with, but they did have more power than those we believed to be our key contacts.   The quote they received was lower than ours, but did not reflect the same level of products and services.   This created a bad comparison and sparked our key contacts to call us.  We realized that this new more powerful person was not educated on what they had or needed, and instead of working with us, he went directly to someone else.  This screamed of a trust issue and the situation frustrated our sales person to no end because he had tried to build a relationship with this person for years.  Why didn’t they give him a chance?  There is no way to be certain of their reason, but it was likely because the person did not like/trust those that we had a relationship with, or because we had not focused on the relationship with them as much as we had with our other contacts in the account.  

In our continuous quest for growth we focus on building relationships.  One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to stop growing our existing relationships.  This happens often and by the time it is realized it may be too late.  It happens when we feel comfortable with our existing relationships and feel that they do not need as much attention as do our efforts to build new ones.   To prevent this, we should be reflecting on our existing customers often and asking questions like… How are things going with them?  What has changed about how they are using our product/services?  Who/what has changed within their organization? Is there the potential for us to serve them in more/other ways?  Do we have relationships with the right people?  This last question is one of the most important because things change and if we are not in tune with what is going on, we may find that a new and powerful person does not believe we are paying them any attention (or they may not even know about us).   When this happens, they seek goods/services elsewhere and it creates a steep hill for us if they feel like we have shown them no attention, or that we are only focused on one area of their business.  It can even create a situation where they are determined to work with someone else.

In the example of our sales person discovering a current client was looking to replace us – his response is what inspired this message.   It was obvious that he did not have a good relationship with the person and that all his efforts thus far to build one had failed.   He knew that a key member of our project management team had a good relationship with a person that worked for the key decision maker.   He decided to team up with them and have them secure a meeting with their main contact and the key decision maker, and that he would just attend the meeting as part of the team.  This strategy worked.  They were able to successfully educate the person on their options, and they listened because it was apparent that the trust door had opened.  It also showed them how important we believe they are because the meeting was called with them, rather than them just being asked to attend a meeting we scheduled with our other key contacts in the account.  We will now be able to continue building and strengthening our relationships within, while helping them make the most of the products and services we offer, for a very long time.  

At critical growth points, cultivation of our existing relationships is even more important than building new ones.   We must be proactive in managing our customer relationships – even when we think we have solid relationships with our customers, we should routinely ask the questions that will help us determine when we need to further cultivate our relationships.

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