We have numerous contacts at our customer but have we ever invested time to really understand their roles and whether they are the people we should be investing our time with?
In a previous article, I discussed why it is important to have a Customer Relationship Plan. Such a method considers the relationship roles, where we are being effective, where we have gaps and what we need to ensure improvements. It is a strategic look at relationships rather than the often found day to day transactional short term approach.
But how do you develop one and what are the various components? How do we get it done? In the next few articles, I will explain the 6 easy steps to developing a robust, measurable and vital plan that is realistic and actionable.
When I worked on the McDonald’s business for Coca-Cola we met many, many people in their organization and they were, of course, all important to us. However, how did we keep track of all these people and ensure we were focused on the people that could add the most value and would yield the optimum amount of joint benefit?
In the 1990’s, not that long ago, Robert Dunbar, a British anthropologist found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. Named Dunbar’s number, he proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships, that is relationships with people we know and maintain social contact with. It does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship.
If we accept this, and he argued a strong case, then we have to be very efficient about how we work with our customers.
So how do we understand our current relationships? Who are they with, how good are they and what roles do these people play. With whom should we be investing our time with to develop relationships?
I would suggest that Relationship Mapping provides the best solution. Traditional maps provide us with a detailed image of the terrain and provide us with insights as to what our journey will entail, depending on which direction we take. Relationship Maps do a similar thing.
They allow us to map our current relationships by every customer contact for each of the people in our organization that interface with the customer. Relationship Mapping is a strategic plot of the status of our relationship strengths and weaknesses. It allows us to grade our relationship levels.
This is done by assigning colors for each connected relationship; red, yellow or green like traffic lights. In essence, red is weak, yellow is good and green is strong.
Once we have a “snapshot” or a map of our ‘terrain” we have completed Step 1 of the Customer Relationship Plan process.
The 2nd step is to identify the roles our various contacts play. Are they the “User” of our products, service or idea. Are they the keeper of the funds, or have the “Budget” role. Or are they the person that can say no, but not necessarily say yes to any proposals, and, therefore, the “Gatekeeper”.
Lastly, as part of step 2 we look at what modes our various contacts are in and how influential they are within their own organization as well as how aligned they are with ours.