I may be dating myself, but I remember the days when meeting with a client meant a long lunch and talking about family and vacations. Your rapport with that client was their number one reason for choosing to do business with you going forward. Yes, there was the occasional problem, and when that occurred, you created a plan to fix the problem and you explained how and why that problem wouldn’t happen again. You left most meetings feeling good, and with a good understanding of where you stood with that buyer or decision maker based on your relationship with them. It was that easy.
If they liked you and trusted you, you were relatively competitive in your respective industry; the likelihood of losing market share to a competitor was pretty slim. Loyalty was the most important factor in a business relationship.
Rapport and loyalty still remain major factors, however the criteria that buyers and decision makers use to make purchase decisions has become a little less subjective over the last decade and will become even less subjective in the future. After all, business is business and knowledge is power. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t meet your buyer for lunch, or that you shouldn’t know the name of their children or where they plan on going for vacation this summer. Bonding will always be critical. However, every bit as critical are quantifiable success factors.
Those quantifiable success factors are now captured in vendor report cards. Sometimes buyers will produce that document based on their criteria from their information, or sometimes they want you to produce that document, based on their criteria but with your information. If they are the ones producing the document, the last thing you would ever want is to be surprised by the contents! It is essential to be aware of your critical success factors with each key account such as turns and gross margin, whether sales are up or down on each product, what promotions were successful and why, how co-op marketing dollars have been allocated and the success of the related marketing campaigns. If you’re not utilizing vendor report cards with your key accounts, you should be!
It is imperative that you can demonstrate to your clients where the strengths and weaknesses in your business relationship are. Provide clients with a snap shot of your business relationship as detailed above and include a summary about past visits. Detail future planned visits as well as future product launches and promotions. Provide them with the complete picture so they are not only basing their future purchase decisions from the tried and true foundation of trust, but from the safe and comfortable foundation of confidence in your knowledge, ability and professional skills.
A Customer Relationship Management software, when integrated with a back office system provides you the tool you need to create that complete quantifiable picture. The combined information of the quantifiable success factors of a business relationship with the sales, marketing and service aspects create a very powerful tool that when used wisely can set you apart from your competition. Make the commitment to create a report card that you page could ask your client to hang on their refrigerator!