Customers leave when they feel their needs are not being met. The strength of your client-partner relationship depends on a deep understanding of your clients’ needs. As an Account Leader, you are the primary point of contact for your clients.
You need to build rapport and stay in touch and aware of everything. At each stage of customer development, there are different approaches and needs. It is important to analyze your relationships and ensure that they are successfully moving through the client-partner lifecycle.
Lifecycle of the client-partner relationship
Ideally, the lifecycle of a client-partner relationship begins with acquisition and continues from there. However, not every relationship goes through every stage of development. Some will be market based, hostile and always at arms length. Some have short or very long life cycles, while others develop (or skip stages) quickly.
Once you understand the lifecycle phases of your client-partner relationships, you can begin to appropriately manage, analyze, and develop them.
Brand new accounts. At this point, we know very little about them. Transactions are market based and focused on product exchange and price negotiation. At this stage we need to determine whether this account has capacity. And if it does, to secure the initial projects.
Initial Accounts. During onboarding, we examined relationship potential and built social bonds. We must work to identify key contacts, buying personas, decision making processes and advocating key account status.
Advanced Accounts. Here, we have an increased level of connection, inter-organizational linkages, social ties, allyship and a strong rise of trust. Our focus is on driving sales, account penetration, new revenue channels, business volume growth and hidden pain points.
Loyal Accounts. We have projects moving towards a common goal and there is increased interdependence. At this stage, our focus is on building partnerships, addressing process-related problems, becoming a first-class vendor partner, and establishing redundant offerings.
Partner Accounts. We are very close to the organization. Together, we are focused on joint value creation, establishing semi-autonomous project teams, and establishing a cultural agreement.
Troubled accounts. We see work stalling or slowing down, lines of sight to future work blocked, and relationships falling apart. We focus on maintaining existing buyer relationships, staying updated on industry and client news, and seeking new opportunities.
Analyzing Your Client-Partner Relationship
Competitive advantage is derived not only from the management of individual efforts, but also from the management of customers. This is best done by solving their problems. The ability to solve customer needs at the lowest possible cost with on-time delivery is the way to enter that market. This is the ultimate goal of account leaders.
When analyzing your client-partner relationship, consider:
- What stage has the account reached?
- How likely is it to grow?
- What strategies can we leverage to support this account?
- What product-line issues can we pinpoint that are a priority for this customer?
- What process-related issues can we pinpoint that are a priority for the customer?
As an Account Leader, your goal is to appropriately drive the customer-partner relationship by anticipating and tailored to your customer’s needs. By building rapport and being honest about the client-partner relationship, you can better analyze the status of your accounts and develop them toward your mutual goals.
Managing your client-partner relationships
To effectively manage relationships with your customers, focus on solving specific problems involving different levels of coordination. While trust is still being built, focus on high-impact projects with little effort.
At the most basic level, customers come to us to solve problems. Most of the times, they are trying to solve issues related to the functionality of the product. These are product related issues that can be resolved with respect to performance and compliance to specifications.
At another level, our service is integrated into the value-added process of our customers. The suitability of the solution, the method of delivery and the technology used all affect the buyer’s process. Issues related to integrating our value into the buyer’s value chain are process issues.
At the highest level, clients are striving to achieve their own strategic goals in their markets. These are convenience issues. Facilitation issues are related to aligning strategic objectives with customers, creating mutual value, building trust, and integrating systems and people.