By Tom Cates
In the business-to-business (B2B) world, building great customer relationships is often the fastest and easiest way to meet or beat your sales numbers, as I discussed in my last post on this blog. I call this building “sales equity,” an expression for all the advantages you gain when you build trusted-advisor relationships with your clients.
I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation at the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston, hosted by my friend and colleague Gerhard Gschwandtner. In the presentation, I showed how sales equity is crucial to rapid sales growth for B2B companies. For those of you who couldn’t attend, here’s a quick recap:
Customer Relationships: The Key to B2B Sales Success
Ultimately, companies don’t have relationships – individuals do. In my 30 years of research on this issue, I’ve found that a customer relationship is
a process, always changing, always moving;
a climate involving six distinct dimensions;
a perception based on logic, not emotion;
a value existing to meet professional and personal needs.
Essentially, a 1:1 relationship is a mutual investment, but what does it take to become invested in this kind of relationship?
Sales Equity As a Tool for Growth
Sales equity differs from product equity and brand equity. Product equity refers to the value of your product, while brand equity refers to the value of your corporate reputation. When you build these types of equity, you encourage people to buy things. In the B2B world, however, people don’t typically just buy things – they buy a relationship with you, and that makes sales equity a top priority.
My research and experience have revealed four levels to 1:1 B2B relationships:
Antagonistic: “I’m fuming!”
Transactional: “You’re fine.”
Predisposed: “You’re my favorite, but…”
Trusted Advisor: “You’re fantastic!”
The closer you come to being a trusted advisor to your clients, the greater your sales equity. As this occurs, you’ll benefit from reduced costs, more cross-sells and up-sells, longer average customer tenure, and a greater share of wallet.
Unfortunately, most company leaders don’t have a strong understanding of how their clients view them. That’s because they’ve never taken the time to measure these relationships on a 1:1 basis. I founded The Brookeside Group partly to address this problem. OurSalesEquity.com™ is a scientific and data-driven client feedback and coaching tool that has helped scores of clients boost revenue and cut marketing costs by strengthening 1:1 customer relationships.
Have you ever scientifically measured client relationships? If so, what were the results? I’d love to know.
As president of The Brookeside group, Tom Cates has established a research-based approach to uncovering the true value of a client relationship. As counsel to a wide array of industries and organizations, he helps companies tackle issues such as market research, customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty, process improvement, and change management. Cates has collaborated on three business books and is a recognized speaker at many events each year, known for his natural storytelling that inspires audiences to achieve better client relationships.