How to Create a Relationship Strategy: 5 Key Questions

3 minute read

Building long-term relationships matters. To succeed in sales, understanding how a company works and the relationships between people is essential. When you access the right people in the buying group and deliver personalized value messages, your likelihood of sales success will skyrocket. In the next series of blog posts, we elaborate on five questions you must answer to effectively develop a business relationship strategy. Here’s a quick overview.

1. Which people matter?

Of course, all stakeholders in a prospect or customer matter; but in a specific project, some matter more than others. Some are responsible for the success of the project, others own the budget. It is likely that there are many who can say no – but only a few that can say yes. Creating a relationship map to understand the key players is critical.

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2. How do they think?

Before you can change someone’s mind, you have to know how they think. Propensity to change, decision orientation, and previous experiences should serve as the guiding path to how you approach your relationship development strategy.

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3. What is your current relationship?

There will be a variety of opinions within any given company on whether or not to select you as a supplier. If people don’t know you, they will view you as irrelevant, and that’s almost as bad as a negative opinion – at least when they have a bad opinion you have the opportunity to change it.

If they don’t know you and think you are irrelevant, you have two hurdles to overcome. First – you need to convince them of your utility, and then you need to help them develop a preference for you. Therefore, it’s key to develop honest assessments of your current relationships. Evidence, not opinion, is what you need for your relationship mapping strategy.

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4. What is the relationship gap?

One of the greatest myths in sales is that you have to achieve ‘Trusted Advisor’ status with everyone. That might be nice, but it is impractical. The investment required is too much, and when you try to reach that level with everyone it is likely that you will not have enough time to spend on the relationships that really matter. It’s the peanut butter problem – spread it too thinly and it doesn’t taste good anywhere.

To understand where you need to get to, you have to assess the relationship required to you there. Establish the desired level first and then determine the gap that needs to be bridged.

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5. How do you bridge that gap?

The key to elevating and expanding your business relationships comes down to one key principle. You must create, measure, and communicate value to the customer. The questions to ask yourself are:

  1. “How can I show the buyer that I have delivered value to their company in the past?”
  2. “What can I do during the selling process to add value to the customer, expand their understanding of the problems they are trying to solve or make them think about their business in a different way?”
  3. “To whom should I communicate these messages?”
    If you take the time to work through these questions you will find that your business relationship strategy emerges clearly. You will easily understand the value to communicate and who to communicate it to, helping the customer and your sales pipeline.

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If you want to delve into any of these questions more deeply, get started on our 5 part series.

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