In a prior post I outlined the 5 key questions to develop a relationship strategy and in the last four posts I explained #1: Who Matters?, #2: How Do They Think?, #3: What is your Current Relationship? and #4: What is the Relationship Gap?
In this post I will outline some thoughts on how you might cross the bridge.
How Do You Bridge the Relationship Gap?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, just like Google Maps, when you put in your desired destination, because it knows where you are, it can just map out how you get to your journey’s end? Well, as you probably know, there are some intelligent software applications – for example, Altify (author’s bias acknowledged – I was involved in designing a lot of the reasoning underpinning Altify’s AI engine) that will take you a long way down the road. Even if you don‘t have an AI powered solution to help guide your journey, there are a few key principles that provide signposts to ease your path to bridging a relationship gap.
In essence, the key to elevating and expanding your relationships comes down to one key principle. You must create, measure and communicate value to the customer. Once again, context matters.
If you have an existing relationship with a customer, you will already have had the opportunity to make a promise on which you could deliver, and then deliver on that promise. Often though, even when that they have previously delivered, sellers frequently do a poor job of communicating that value.
If, for example, you deployed a HR Management solution to your customer that reduced the time to process job applicants by half, be sure not to keep it a secret. Make sure that you have captured the baseline data so that, when relevant, you can remind the customer of how hard it used to be to process job applicants. Their success is your success – just as when they have a problem with your solution, it is your problem. Don‘t forget to document customer successes. Your marketing team will love you if they can share them in the marketplace, but even if the customer does not want to share their success outside the four walls of the corporate HQ, make sure that everyone inside the walls of HQ knows that you delivered on your promise.
Buyers reward sellers who understand their business. You can’t create or communicate value unless you can feel their pain. That takes work and research and all of the strategies described in my book Digital Sales Transformation in a Customer First World. Once you understand the customer’s business you have the opportunity to leverage your own expertise and that of your company to expand their understanding of their business problem.
[Some methodologies refer to this as deepening the pain for the customer while another uses the more esoteric term of Rational Drowning, making the customer feel as if they are gasping for air. I am not a fan of either of these monikers. They both feel terribly vendor centric and a contrived way to position your value.]
A better approach is to consider what you would do, based on your knowledge, experience and expertise, if you were in their shoes. That forces you to ‘get in their shoes’ and walk with them. It forces you to consider the impact on their business if they make the right or wrong buying decisions and it illuminates dark spots in the buyer’s mind where they have not yet seen what is possible. Your job is to shine a light, provide valuable insights into the business and into the market and guide them to see what is possible. Then they can connect their business priorities to potential solutions. That’s one sure way to elevate your relationship.
The obvious behavioral factors apply.
- Always give more than you get to demonstrate that you want to add value.
- Don’t wait until you need something from your customer or prospect before you deliver value.
- Always do what you say.
- Be respectful.
- Show up on time.
- Consider their interests first.
- And if they are selecting the wrong product from you, even if it means a bigger deal for you, advise them against it.
If you want to become a Trusted Advisor, or if you want them to support you in a deal, you have to earn their trust. Trust starts with the first promise you make and ends with the first promise you break.