Posted on: February 3, 2020
Few B2B businesses don’t want to build good, solid relationships with their clients, however when that relationship rests on one person from the client-side and one from the supplier’s, the relationship is potentially at risk.
Putting the relationship at risk
If one of those two people move away, the whole business relationship can flounder. On the supplier side, loss of a client contact or their own staff can mean having to go through the sometimes lengthy process of building up the relationship again.
A new client contact coming in may also have their own preferred suppliers for this service or product and aim to switch over to them as soon as possible. They may initiate a review or competitive tender to assess the best value for them going forward. This can require significant time and effort by the incumbent supplier to try and retain their position.
To avoid client relationships resting on such a fragile connection, it pays to forge multiple relationships between the client and supplier organisations. That way, if one link ends, there is enough goodwill and support for the supplier business through other links. This will significantly improve the chances of retaining the client’s business.
Strength in numbers
We’re often asked how you establish such multiple relationships. For clients valuable to your business, the key is to bring together a group of people from across your organisation to form an account team charged with protecting and developing the client relationship. The team members will usually have different dealings with the client and may represent sales, customer service, those delivering the product or service, finance/accounts and even senior management.
The task then, as a team, is to list the different client contacts who may have a part to play in whether their organisation uses you or another supplier. This is likely to represent both decision-makers and influencers in the client structure.
An essential map
By conducting this task you map those client contacts who your business needs to build rapport and trust with. The activity also flags potential gaps, where there are key client contacts who could affect whether you retain the business, but do not have a relationship with your team.
With this list completed, team members are paired to specific client contacts to build rapport and strengthen the relationship. Allocation is usually done according a team member’s specialism/business area, however it is also sensible to match similar seniority levels, personalities and interests to the client contact. This will help to speed up the rapport and trust-building process
Other strategic strengthening approaches that help:
- Understanding individual client contact’s personal and professional agendas, so their supplier team member can support them. This comes from the relevant team member investing time with the client contact and finding out about them, the challenges and opportunities their role faces and how they like to work. It means having broader conversations than the specific task/job/assignment at hand. The output is a client contact who comes to rely on your team that much more and truly values their input.
- Deciding as a team what relationship-building activities will be used with client contact individuals so there is a cohesive and consistent approach. Collectively these activities form your client relationship plan, which all the team should be familiar with. It helps to eliminate any unnecessary duplication of effort, makes the most of any economies of scale and avoids any conflicting approaches creeping in which will just confuse the client.
- Setting up regular team communications – ideally blending online meetings or conference calls as well as email contact. These share any insight/news gleaned by team members that could influence how to offer greater support to the client organisation overall and to specific individuals. It will also help the team to proactively manage and respond to potential challenges or risks to the client relationship, as they arise.
- Review on a regular basis the progress being made in strengthening different strands of the client relationship and measuring opportunities converted as a result.
It is a well-known fact that it is easier to win more work from existing clients than new ones. Once you have won a B2B client, their decision to stay with you is unlikely to rest with one individual. Nor should you leave that relationship’s security to one individual on your side and one on theirs.
By investing time to map out and then plan which client contacts your business will strengthen its relationship with, you have a greater chance of protecting this revenue stream for the future. Of course it goes without saying that to be successful here, the client’s experience of your organisation at every link should be a positive one.
The effort involved, however, is worthwhile. As well as finding ways to secure the client’s loyalty, a team approach by your business can often uncover new opportunities to sell other products/services to this client organisation and increase their reliance on you even more.
For more advice and tips on key client planning, contact us on tel. 01483 429111.