During my time at Coca-Cola, I worked with our largest customer, McDonald’s. At one stage in the relationship with McDonald’s Germany, we were trying to get more Coca-Cola branding awareness in the restaurant. One method was to get the generic McDonald’s cups replaced on the translites (the lit menu boards behind the counter that show menu items) with Coca-Cola branded cups.
We had made our case to their marketing department that research had shown that beverage sales increased with branding and also resulted in increased profits. They agreed but months dragged on without getting a decision to move ahead and we were getting more and more frustrated and disappointed.
After much hand-wringing and conference calls, we established the decision had to be approved by the clients Operations people. Because it was in-store equipment, translites was their budget item. Not marketing? Great, we were only talking to ‘part’ of the decision-making process. We had made a wrong assumption because we hadn’t planned our relationship process.
Most people think they know all about building relationships. “I got married didn’t I?” “I’ve got best friends haven’t I?” “I’m not the black sheep in the family am I?”
So if you think like this person, and a lot of us do, why on earth would you need someone to help you in the area of planning and building relationships?
Just because we appear to have good relationships, it doesn’t mean we are good at planning and building them, or indeed the right ones. I would argue that we all tend to have good friends and family relationships because mostly we have to. We are forced into most of our relationships or they happen because of environment, proximity or being at work with people.
However, what happens if we need to form a relationship with someone that will ensure we meet our business needs? How do we know who that person should be instead of gravitating to the people we like, the same way we do in our social life?
Why is this important for us? Because we gravitate easily to the people like us, with the same interests, we often end up forming business relationships that do not necessarily further our company’s business goals. It is so easy to play golf, enjoy dinners and be in the company of people we like with a link to our business, just because we like them and not because they can make the decisions we are working towards.
But are they able to make the decisions that matter to us? Do they genuinely make a difference to the position our company has in the eyes of the senior management of our client?
How do we ensure we are spending our “Relationship time” effectively?
By planning the relationships we need, we must look at how to build productive business contacts.
Relationships are no different than a lot of our core business disciplines. We need to be able to focus our time and resources in the most optimum way. So how do we do that with relationships?
I have found the optimum way, like most business success, is to plan. And I believe the best way of doing this is by using Relationship Mapping and then looking at Decision Influences. Relationship Mapping is a strategic plot of the status of our relationship strengths and weaknesses with each of our clients. It is if you like, a snapshot of our client coverage.
However, to ensure we are building the right relationships we need to understand the customer roles. There are various ways to define the key roles our customer contacts play and I have developed a process, which focuses on four roles that we should identify: Budget, User, Gatekeeper and Coach. Each one of these labels defines a decision role for the various people within your customer’s organization.
To ensure we are building the right relationships we need to understand the customer roles. There are various ways to define the key roles our customer contacts play. In my book, The Relationship Roadmap, I explain the process I developed which focuses on the four roles that we should identify: Budget, User, Gatekeeper and Coach. Each one of these labels defines a decision role for the various people within your customer’s organization and therefore helps us build productive business contacts.
By Relationship Mapping and then identifying what roles are being played by our Customer or Client we can start to ensure we are spending our time building relationships in the most effective and productive way.