Ignoring your customer = mission failure

Business Relationship Management is the formal process of managing all levels of the business and client lifecycle.  You may be thinking, “why is a formal process necessary when it’s just a transaction?  We bid, get the business, perform, get paid – done.  Why is management of the relationship something that I might need in business?“

The answer lies in our current cultural climate. We are the most technologically “connected” than we’ve ever been, yet it seems like we are more disconnected in our relationships.  People often perform transactions electronically and wonder why the sale didn’t go as smoothly as it could. Many times this is because their business is in a relationship economy and although most people are overwhelmed with too much to do, taking the time to connect can go a long way in establishing a solid foundation for a positive business relationship.

Getting the sale or contract is usually the most difficult part of the business lifecycle.  But many companies struggle with, how to keep business or get repeat business.  Many companies can solve both issues by taking the conversation beyond a transactional approach.

There are 3 levels of business relationship management to consider: company/corporate team, suppliers, and customers.

1. Company/Corporate Team

Relationship management starts within the company or corporate team.  You must have a plan to make sure all requirements of the contract you agree to are met and executed in a timely manner.  At the same time, all internal stakeholders in the process should feel like an important part of the team.  Meetings with in-house stakeholders can build trust and increase performance.  This can set the foundation for buy in to connect with outside stakeholders.

2.  Suppliers

If there are suppliers involved in fulfilling your contracts, managing the relationship with them can help ensure timely delivery of products or services that are needed from them to fulfill your obligation. Resist the urge to treat your relationship with them as a simple transaction.  While you may not need that overnight delivery today, building a solid connection will ensure they will go to bat for you when you need them to.  Consider treating your suppliers like a part of the team of stakeholders.

3. Customers

Once you make a sale or secure a contract, actively managing your relationship with the customer can help build mutual trust and can be important for not only repeat business, but also referrals and recommendations to other business that could use what your company provides.  More often than not, the customer will be more likely to do repeat business with you because of that relationship and trust. This can also be how you may end up top of mind for a future job.

How do you build these strong, long-lasting business relationships?  In person is the best way to establish a connection, if possible.  People tend to get to know you better when they are able to meet face to face and in person.  Physically being in each other’s’ presence can create an exchange of energy that just doesn’t happen as often over the phone or through email.

If you can’t meet in person, try doing a video call, as opposed to a phone call.  The face-to-face connection can help put a face to a name.  A phone call or email can come across as less personal and more transactional.  In general, you want to try to get away from the transaction and closer to a “tribe” where everyone in the process feels connected, empowered and part of one big team.

When building a relationship, make it more about the connection and less about the business.  Try to find an affinity or commonality with the person you are meeting with. There’s an adage that says “people who are like each other, like each other.”  What that can be interpreted as is when people find a commonality their trust factor increases. You feel more connected because the other person understands something about you.

Taking the time to work on your business relationships being less transactional and more connected can help develop a great foundation for long term success.  Connection builds trust and trust builds business.

Photo Credit: RLTheis, Twenty20