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Expanding Your Web of Influence

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, a single level in their 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 on 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 customer: 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:

  1. 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?