How to Map and Measure Client Relationships
Are your client relationships more like a rope or a string?
To understand the comparison, first consider the definition. "A rope is a group of yarns, plies, or strands that are twisted or braided together into a larger and stronger form."
Clients want less suppliers, not more. A relationship that is more like a rope than a string is much stronger and helps to reduce overall client risk. Multiple relationships create greater opportunities for cross-selling and for leveraging referrals.
"The twist of the strands in a twisted or braided rope serves not only to keep a rope together, but enables the rope to more evenly distribute tension among the individual strands. Without any twist in the rope, the shortest strand(s) would always be supporting a much higher proportion of the total load."
Think of your strongest client relationship. How many internal contacts have relationships with client contacts? Are your internal contacts at multiple levels or just one? How many client contacts do you have in their organization? Are you connected at multiple levels?
Relationships can indeed be mapped and measured. The first number represents the number of internal levels and the second represents the number of levels on the client side.
1x1: A relationship is single-threaded on both sides, meaning only one person in your organization is tied to one person in the customer's organization. This is the riskiest of all relationships. If either person leaves, the customer is in jeopardy and you will be starting all over with the new person.
2x1: Slightly better than a single-threaded relationship, this is where you have two levels in your organization tied to only a single person or level within the customer's organization.
3x1: Increasing the number of contacts in your organization lessens the risk to some extent, but in this scenario, it is important to connect with another level inside the customer organization.
1x2: In a 1x2 relationship, one person on your side is tied to two contacts at two levels in the customer's organization. There is still significant risk due to turnover on either side.
2x2: With two levels on your side, tied to 2 levels at the customer, the relationship becomes stronger and the risk begins to lessen.
2x3: When two individuals at two levels on your side have relationships with at least three levels in the client organization, it continues to reduce the overall relationship risk.
3x3: If a relationship is 3x3, it means that there are people at three levels inside the organization connected to contacts at three levels in the client organization. Always strive for at least a 3x3 relationship.
People change, and as people change, there is risk. If you are not mapping and measuring your relationships today, they could be more like a string than a rope. Leveraging a 3x3 relationship (or more) strengthens the partnership, opens up cross-selling opportunities and can spur further innovation.