“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates
In the B2B world, building great customer relationships is often the fastest and easiest way to meet or beat your sales numbers. I call this building “sales equity” – an expression for all the advantages you gain when you build Trusted Advisor relationships with your clients.
In a presentation at the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston, hosted by my friend and colleague Gerhardt Gschwandtner, I showed how sales equity is crucial to rapid sales growth for B2B companies. For those of you who couldn’t attend the presentation, I’ll give a quick rundown here:
Customer Relationships: The Key to B2B Sales Success
Ultimately, companies don’t have relationships – individual people do. In my 30 years of research on this issue, I’ve found that a customer relationship is a:
Process: always changing, always moving
Climate: involving six distinct dimensions
Perception: based on logic, not emotion
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 stuff. But in the B2B world, people don’t typically just buy stuff – 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 upsells, 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. Our Encompass-CX.com™ is a scientific and data-driven client feedback and coaching tool, based on the concept of sales equity, 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.