No one wants to be seen as the same as anyone. We all want to be seen and heard as people who are unique and distinctly us and we want the same for our businesses, products and services.
But do you ever think about the uniqueness of your customer relationships?
Today more than in any time in history your products and services are exposed to comparison, commodity and competition. The speed of innovation, technology and a customer that needs to remain competitive just as much as you is forcing every business to raise the quality of their products and take serving their customers more seriously.
Unless businesses look for blue ocean strategies (offering something distinct, untapped and valuable to their market) they’ll be living in a red ocean fighting the same customer retention, margin and competition battles.
I want to propose that the greatest place to invest and innovate in B2B selling outside of providing the great product/service and experience for your customers is in your customer relationships.
I’m not talking about better customer service or experience mapping. I’m talking about differentiating your customer relationship so it becomes a competitive advantage.
“Differentiating your relationships is the new competitive advantage because it’s the only place you have unrivalled access to your customers. The best use of your time is not on selling but transforming the perception of who you are.”
A differentiated relationship is when – who you are to your customer (your character, honesty, challenge, consistency, values and more) becomes something that impacts the way they integrate, communicate, share and create opportunity with you.
We all know of those moments where you get overridden for an opportunity by someones best friend even if you know you could do it better. The key will not just be the results you produce but who you are.
If you were to look at the work of Charles Green who developed the Trust equation and study Intimacy would map to this idea but I believe the next step is differentiation. The continued development of trust traits that create greater intimacy, credibility and access to opportunity.
A lot of talk today is presenting an old model of customer service in a new box filled with social media and automation. We’re settling for marginal results without really understanding customer potential.
Why do organisations who have worked with their customers for 5, 10, 20 years still get push back on simple and common tasks? They go through the same path ways as any new supplier. They have marginally more access to the customer than suppliers from different areas. These are companies who say they are legitimate partners.
“The importance of what you do is not an indicator of who you are to your customer.”
Let me offer an example
If you have two suppliers asking for time from a client it will usually be the supplier that solves the biggest and most urgent problem that wins. In the new world of relationship based strategies who you are to your customer can override this scenario.
Just like you’d prioritise a day with your mum over drinks with your friends. Clients will look at their relationships and say “Who shall I make the extra time for?”. There are countless examples of partner relationships that have that level of influence and impact.
Having worked now with 100s of B2B account managers. The impact of relationship based strategies makes things more and more conclusive. We’ve always said people do business with people they know, like and trust. Trust is the strongest component to this.
How do you differentiate your relationships?
By making trust a strategic compass. What if every week you were to ask the question. How can I build trust in my relationships this week? how would that impact how you thought about your next conversation? Building trusted partner relationship shouldn’t be a response to an obligation of what you should be it must be an intention of something you are or are becoming.
We must recognise that there are different levels of trust that determine how differentiated your relationship becomes. When researching for my book the Key Account Hack, speaking with over 150 super successful key account managers, consultants, directors and surveying 200 customers. I’ve found trust building to be one of the 8 principles to explosive customer growth.
Whenever we are on the phone or face to face with our customers you are in the greatest competitive advantage to deepen your relationships and differentiate your value. We can do this most powerfully if trust becomes a strategy.