Single-threaded customer relationships are dangerous. We all inherently know this, though not everyone can clearly articulate why having only a single relationship in an account is bad, how customer relationships are measured, and/or strategies to expand the web of influence within an account.
Earlier this week, I was reminded in an Account Management training session with a client that the fastest way to drive profitable growth is to retain and expand within existing accounts. Participants in the training (including experienced account managers) asked valid questions such as, “Is there a way to tell what types of relationships we have with our current customers?” and “What do you mean by 3x3?” They were genuinely interested to learn why they should be at least 3x3 and what to do to get there.
Why Single-threaded Relationships Are Bad
If you only have a relationship with one person, your organization is only connected to one contact - within a single department, at aa single level in the company. Any change in personnel, in your organization, or in your client’s organization, increases risk in the overall relationship. And one thing is guaranteed – there will be change!
A single relationship is a single perspective. Retention, then is merely a hope, not a strategy, and opportunities for expansion are limited to that one person’s influence.
You Can Measure Relationships
1. Number of relationships: This is where striving for “3x3” applies. 3x3 at a basic level means having 3 people at 3 levels in your organization connected with at least 3 people at 3 different levels in your client’s organization. For example, if as an account manager, only you have a relationship but connect with 2 people at different levels within the account, the relationship would be 1x2. One person on your side and 2 on the client side.
Consider the impact of client risk, when an account manager, or your client contact, leaves if the relationship was single-threaded. Now imagine you have at least 3 people in your organization at different levels connected to 3 people in your client’s organization. When there is a personnel change on either side, the bond is much stronger, and it is easier to maintain continuity of service within the account.
2. Types of Relationships: In every personal interaction we have with a customer, we are forming a relationship. The Relationship Pyramid is a tool that you can use to assess your current relationships and begin to formulate a strategy to advance every relationship. There are three types of relationships we can have with our customers: competitive, cooperative, and collaborative.
Each of these types of relationships differs based on the extent to which needs (ours and the customer’s) are perceived to be in alignment.
Use the Relationship Assessment to identify where you are on the Relationship Pyramid with your client.
3. Quality of Relationships: Performing a Net Promoter Score® survey is an objective way to determine the loyalty rating from your client’s operating reality. If your contact is a promoter, passive, or detractor, you will have specific actions to take based upon how your contact’s experience with your company. The overall NPS for the account factors all relationships and measured over time allows to see if their overall perceptions are improving… or not.
Strategies to Expand Your Web of Influence: Relationship Mapping & Governance
Once you have identified the current and desired relationships, you can map and build a plan to expand them. Some best practices include:
Identify your contact’s role in the buying process. Is this person the Key Decision Maker or someone that will authorize or approve the decision?
Classify the contact’s political role. What level of influence in the decision will this person have?
Recognize the contact’s workplace style. Reading people is easier if you have an understanding of behavioral styles (i.e., DISC). It allows you to adjust how you communicate with clients and successfully achieve positive outcomes.
Paying attention to some simple traits your customer may exhibit can help you determine how best to communicate with them. Just like when you’re driving somewhere you’ve never been before, it’s helpful to have directions on hand to understand the best way to get to where you’re going, relationship mapping serves a similar purpose.
Relationship mapping will help you become at least 3x3. It will help you identify contacts at the right level, gain access and appeal to each person’s decision drivers. It ensures that you are going to the right people and discussing the right issues. It will allow you to properly plan for meetings and ensure you have good questions prepared and can anticipate potential objections. This will help you gain credibility and trust and advance the relationship.
At Butler Street, we specialize in helping companies and their people grow through best practices in client retention and expansion. It is all comes down to relationships. If you'd like to learn how our account management training and ClientFit® can help you, contact us.