How can we evaluate our current relationships, measure progress and adapt for something that is so subjective?
A few years ago I was dealing with a major account in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) business, aka fast food. Their senior management was changing on a quarterly basis and had been over the year. Companies go through this from time to time.
But, this made it extremely difficult for us to get continuity of decisions and we were finding ourselves continually having to make changes as the new management took over various key positions. It was bad for both companies.
With any management change comes ideological or structural change, as the new broom wants to sweep clean. To minimize the chances of us being swept away by the new broom, we decided we needed to evaluate the situation and sit down and be strategic about our relationships, instead of merely transactional.
We needed to look at ways that our relationship engagement could be changed so we could minimize disruption to key decisions that were important to both companies.
So we evaluated our relationships and looked at alternative relationship engagement scenarios.
We realized that we were only dealing with the top of the pyramid of a relationship network. It was just one piece of the decision-making process and we had always just dealt with the corporate office. As we looked at some of the key changes that had been made operationally over the history of the company, the franchise community had initiated most of them.
Franchisees have a vested and permanent interest. They buy the business. They own it. They are the people that dictate what’s going to happen, even if the corporation gives guidance and leadership.
We realized that if we engaged with key aspects of the franchise community then we could have a better handle on the final decision-making and how our business was going to be shaped. We could have more control over our destiny.
So decided to move further downstream (not exclusively) and develop relationships with the franchisees, which are the guys who will not change overnight. In other words, widen our contact basis and secure more control over our destiny of decision-making.
We then mapped the process and made sure that we knew who was going to cover who and that we had sufficient resources to make the change. We then implemented the change
As we progressed through the change we realized it had several advantages. Not only did we minimize some of the disruption, but also we were getting feedback we had never been privy to before. We also were learning more about the business which made our recommendations more on point and relevant to the customer’s business.
Relationships need to be treated as strategic rather than transactional, which means like all strategies we need to periodically re-appraise what’s working and what isn’t and then tweak and make changes where necessary.
When was the last time you evaluated your relationships through the strategic lens?
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Peter M. Beaumont is a Management Consultant and Owner of ConnXN. He is the author of The Relationship Roadmap and is a customer relationship mentor who helps those responsible for their stellar clients protect and grow their business. See more at www.ConnXN.net