First, the summary for those that can't be bothered with the detail.
A great relationship manager is someone who,
- Understands their customers business,
- Knows the customers strategy and where they can add value,
- Knows the value proposition to the customer of their products and services,
- Understands their own companies value to the customer,
- Has a synergistic view of the two companies strategies,
- Knows within their own company who has the knowledge they need,
- Accepts their role is to bring the two together,
- Establishes a forum where both parties collaborate openly,
- Creates a trusting sales environment,
- Understands how and when and with whom to close it.
Now the Detail
Understands their customers business
Too often a relationship manager fails to really understand the customers' business. In today's socialised world that's a crime. With access to the Internet, Facebook, LinkedIn, directories, research tools and so on it's not hard to research a company and
the management team you are working with to really understand what their business is doing and where it's going.
Remember, you are selling to them; your products and services need to add value to their business, not yours.
Knows the customers strategy and where they can add value
All business have a strategy and the reason why the buy in products is to help move that strategy along. If you don't understand the basic strategy of the customer, you cannot know if the products you offer are relevant to them.
Use research tools and question the customer about what they are trying to do and where they are trying to get to. Your job is to help them achieve a goal.
Too often sales people try to sell products based on the current position of the prospect; think about it - if they are where they are, they don't need your help. You're needed to move to the next milestone.
Knows the value proposition to the customer of their products and services
This is the core of the role; providing the customer with value. If they don't get value from your company why would they buy?
Use research and questions to discover the customers strategy and use this to explain how your product adds value to what they are trying to do, how quick to market they can be, how they payback works. If possible, show how working with you can help the
customer achieve their long-term strategy sooner.
Value is a different issue for different people, sometimes it can be monetary, others positioning, or just leadership; understand it or lose it.
Understands their own companies value to the customer
Selling should be seen as a long-term objective hence the relationship manager tag. You should be looking to build a partnership between the two companies that may have a small start but that can blossom over time.
Your company has services and products that add value to the customer; some of these are support, knowledge, future development and the like, others are more tangible like discounts for long-term customers, free upgrades and so on.
Use research to understand where the customer wants to go and then see what and who in your company can add value to their goal.
If you aren't looking for a relationship, why are you talking to the customer?
Has a synergistic view of the two companies' strategies
If your customer isn't going in a direction that matches your own strategy and complements it, then where is the value in dealing with that customer?
The relationship should be built on what we can help each other achieve in the long-term building on short-term requirements, but long-term needs. Ask yourself constantly, will this sale add value to my products and services, will it take us in new directions,
can we add new functionality, will we gain traction in new markets; will we grow because of this ale or are we just after revenue.
You wouldn't marry someone just because they were a good proposition at 25, you'd want to evaluate how that person can help and partner you on the journey of life; children, jobs, leisure, retirement. So why would you not see a customer as a partner on life's
Knows within their own company who has the knowledge they need
The biggest mistake relationship people make is thinking they have to have all the knowledge. How often do you hear 'if I understand it, my customer will understand it.' Cobblers.
Organisations are full of experts, people who have been there for years, fought the fights, been in the battles and emerged as 'experts' and bear the scars. Your job is to know who they are get them in front of the customer to help progress the deal.
Experts are usually pleased when asked to participate because everyone likes to tell their stories.
Accepts their role is to bring the two together
Your role is to bring the two companies together into a partnership that mutually benefits both sides.
The role is difficult which is why people like you are needed to do it. You have to constantly put people together to artificially create 'social' environments. People who don't know each other have agendas and don't necessarily communicate well. Your job
is to help those people perform at their professional best, to communicate and resolve issues and create understanding.
Communication is the exchange of ideas and emotions between two people, both of whom aware, that the other is there. Peter Rogen
Establishes a forum where both parties collaborate openly
As soon as you can you need to establish formal meetings with as many of the key players and decision makers as you can. Minute them, assign tasks and track progress.
If you rely on one person to spread the word within the customer environment, they will interpret your message to suit their strategy. In order to make a sale you need to broaden the group you are selling to make sure your message is understood and that
the value you are providing is appreciated by all those that will benefit.
The project begins before the sale is made.
Creates a trusting sales environment
If the customer doesn't trust you, you'll never make the sale. Don't ever lie, or overpromise or bend the truth. Be up front, be honest, be open, be true to yourself.
The customer can see from your business card your job is to sell, so from day one they're going to be suspicious of you. They know you only make your earnings if you sell. So they know you'll work hard to sell.
They'll work just as hard to make sure they're buying the right thing at the right price; so be up front at the front.
People buy from people; and not only Elephants have long memories.
Understands how and when and with whom to close it
Closing deals is an art in itself and these days rarely do you do it with the people you've negotiated with all through the process. So, make efforts to connect to the right decision makers, the right purse holders and the right influencers, so that when
it comes to closing you have everybody on board already.
You may need help to close a deal; ask for it. I don't know of any CEO's that aren't pleased to be asked to help seal a deal if it's been won in the correct way and is of benefit to the organisation. But also enlist the help of your own finance team, your
own legal people and your own peers.
When faced with a strong closing team the customer is only going to respect the depth of your companies' talents; not fear it.
The main thing to accept when you are the Relationship Manager is that you are there to build a relationship; that means to become your customer's partner, their confidante, their golf partner, maybe even their friend.
But, you can only do it if you are giving your customer something of value in exchange for their money; if you are honest and open and you deliver what they need and when they need it and it does what you said it would - Like it says on the tin.
Being in a business relationship is the same as being in a marriage; if you cheat, you'll get found out and you'll never be wholly trusted again. But, if you are honest you might have a partner for life.