First goal – Get deep insights & access to people involved with the buying process.
Second goal – Create and present a compelling, valued solution for your customer.
Final goal – Win the deal.
If you have strong business relationships you can exercise them in the run up to presenting your sales solution. Part 2 of this series presented a process for doing that through a map and a list of ASKS. Together, they place you in the best position to win the deal.
However, if your relationships are not strong enough for the ASKS listed in Part 2, you’ll need to strengthen them. That’s where this post comes in. Here in Part 3 we’ll list 20 ways to strengthen relationships so you can ask for everything in the ASKS table, and get enough of them to secure the sale.
Timing: How Long, When & Caveat
How Long it Takes to Strengthen
Strengthening relationships takes time. Often a large amount of time; time that’s not available when you’re in the middle of ASKS. Real strengthening begins from the first time you meet contacts and continues as those contacts become business friends.
Of course you’re always strengthening relationships in every customer interaction by working with integrity, honesty, intelligence, etc. But your competition does that too. So the list below will raise your relationships up a notch and help you eventually win the deal.
When to Strengthen
When you strengthen relationships can be tricky. If done at the wrong time it can be misinterpreted.
Why? Because there’s the potential to send the wrong message; to appear unethical. While the items listed below are normal business relationship-building activities, they have the potential to be misconstrued.
And many things can have a questionable appearance depending on when they occur. Like taking a vacation to the Cayman Islands just when the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) asks to audit your taxes 😉
The Timing Caveat
After understanding the condition and situation above, timing’s caveat becomes clear:
DO NOT work on strengthening relationships when you’re in the formal part of a buying process. You’ll know it’s the formal part when any one of these occur:
* Your business friend/contact is accepting proposals
* Procurement is qualifying suppliers via a Request for Information (RFI)
* You’ve received a Request for Proposal (RFP)
Stronger Relationships: A List of 20
So here it is. A list to begin building stronger relationships that will eventually unlock their revenue potential.
This list is a starting point and there are other activities to be added. But given time and effort these activities build stronger relationships in a business context, as well as a personal one.
1. Bring customers into your strategic brainstorming & planning sessions
2. Include them on your customer advisory board
3. Include customers in exclusive, preferred customer focus groups
4. Ask your customers to speak at your hosted/sponsored educational seminars
5. Ask your customers to donate to your charity events & causes (their time, non-cash items, cash, etc.)
6. Provide comparative performance information (benchmarks, range of rates, typical results)
7. Provide industry insights, trends & gossip
8. Bring customers to educational seminars – ideally you or someone from your firm is speaking there
9. Invite them to your exclusive educational seminars just for preferred customers
10. Publish press releases highlighting customers’ accomplishments with your offering, when newsworthy
11. Nominate customers achievements within industry associations
12. Support customers’ initiatives within industry associations, where you’re a member
13. Create an industry award (and group) and award your annual achievement award to the worthy customer
14. Participate in customers’ charity events & causes by donating your time
15. Donate non-cash items (furniture, PCs, etc.) & cash to customers’ charities in their name
16. Take up sponsorships of customers’ charity events & causes
17. Typical business lunches, dinners, breakfast or coffee meetings
18. Attending games, theater, or movies together (not just handing over tickets)
19. Actively participate with them golfing, tennis or other shared sporting interests
20. If you’re already close, vacation together (doesn’t work for me but others do this)
The activities listed for strengthening relationships may not be earth shatteringly new. But they are a starting point for putting you in position to get your ASKS, and better chances to win the deal.
What’s been left off this list?
Really interested to see other ways you have of strengthening relationship. Please post up your thoughts.