There are three basic elements of building long term profitable business relationships. What needs to be kept in mind is that the following process should be followed FOR EACH PROSPECT. This can result in some “extra work" but the payoff is well worth the additional effort. The biggest obstacle in relationship development processes that I see is they don’t get very specific with regards to individual prospects. By observing the following steps and becoming creative in the ways you apply them, you can rest assured that the outcomes will be what you want them to be for both you and your prospects.
1. BEGIN AT THE END
A. Compose a short story of what the relationship with the prospect looks and feels like, how much money this relationship will bring into the company over a specified period of time and how much value and joy your organization will bring to the prospect (what you will give so that you can receive)
B. Devise a written plan detailing the steps that will be taken to create the desired outcome; obtain input from everyone in the value-chain who will have an impact on this prospect as a customer (be sure to tell them the story of the organization’s future relationship with this prospect)
C. Determine a date by which the desired outcome will occur
D. Assign specific milestones and timelines that need to be accomplished along the way
E. Budget for each prospect the amount of money needed to take the steps (if you skimp here, you’ll probably wind up wasting any money you do spend; remember, you’re investing to develop a long term business relationship, not a short term sale)
F. Hold “Huddles" with rotating contributors to the value-chain at least once a month to report progress, review the story (is what we’ve done so far helping to tell the story we wrote at the beginning of this process?) and solicit feedback and additional input; revise the relationship development plan based on the results of these Huddles
G. Engage in “Business Edification:" develop cost-free and low-cost ways you can help your prospect succeed in their business without charging them; this is an investment in the relationship and is provided without expectation of return – furthermore, this sort of activity should be constantly pursued even after (especially after) the prospect has become a paying customer
H. Determine who else (what other products and/or services) could benefit the prospect in ways they haven’t yet thought of (this is thinking about the prospect’s business needs and opportunities before they think of them themselves); explore creative ways you can partner with your prospect to help them get more than they expected in their business enterprises; go one step further and explore ways you can help them partner with other businesses that will help them grow their business influence and profits
2. FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMERS BUT KEEP YOUR COMPETITORS IN VIEW
A. Review all available marketing data and current research on competitors at the Huddle meetings
B. If new information indicates the need, create a strategy and a plan for countering any competitive advantages a competitor might be developing or might now have
C. Incorporate this information and this strategy into the relationship development plan
D. Determine what makes your customers continue to do business with you and then write a story about how your customers are better at what they do because of their relationship with you (use metaphors and analogies rather than merely reporting the “facts" and inserting testimonials)
3. UNDERSTAND THAT MARKETING IS RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
A. When it comes to developing long term profitable business relationships, a sale is a natural result of marketing – selling should not be considered as a separate process independent of marketing (the sales process flows out of and back into the marketing process)
B. Make every contact with the prospect (in any form – phone, email, letter, face-to-face, etc. ) value added regarding information they can use immediately to solve a problem and/or increase their business influence and profits; the first two contacts should be both about you and about them with all subsequent contacts primarily about them (as an example, faxing articles about their industry which demonstrates that you know about them, their industry and what they’re reading – or should be reading)
C. Think ahead of the curve of your prospect’s need; consider their fiscal year and when they will be most likely to need your products/services and those of other businesses as well; this way, you become viewed as a solicited trusted advisor and not an intrusive salesperson (as the marketing guru Dan Kennedy says, “an invited guest, not an unwanted pest")
D. Follow up with every opportunity to define and solve a problem or create and capitalize on an opportunity; if you can help your prospects see their businesses a little more clearly from an outside perspective, you’ll have gone a long way in forging a strong and lasting bond of respect and trust with them
Ken Wallace, M. Div. , CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders. A professional member of the National Speakers Association since 1989, he is also a member of the International Federation for Professional Speaking and holds the Certified Seminar Leader (CSL) professional designation awarded by the American Seminar Leaders Association.
Ken is one of only eight certified Business Systems Coaches worldwide for General Motors.
His topics include ethics, leadership, change, communication & his unique Optimal Process Design® program.
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