I’ve written about the importance of relationships in sales many times. I’ve understood the MASSIVE value of relationships intuitively but last night after attending a Bradley Sugars “Business is Booming” seminar I gained a new understanding of why relationships are important. Simply put, strong relationships provide “lifetime value”. Lifetime value is the value of a relationship over time – ideally a lifetime.

Essentially there are three relationships you need to constantly nurture.

  1. Customers
  2. Centers of Influence
  3. Host Beneficiary Relationships

Customers: Nurturing relationships with customers is a no-brainer. Customer relationship building leads to two things if done correctly. Repeat business and referrals. How many times are you reaching out to your existing customers? When is the last time you asked them for a referral? Scratch that. The question should be “When was the last time you rewarded your customer for a referral?”

The other two relationships are often over looked and equally important.

Centers of Influence: Are you building relationships with key players in your industry? You know the ones creating the buzz in your industry: the professionals whose blogs and books you read, or who put on the seminars you attend.

When was the last time you reached out to a key influencer in your industry and opened a conversation or even tried to create a relationship. You may tell yourself “but he/she is too busy”. You’re right on one account they are busy, but they are not too busy. They earned their position of “centers of influence” because they take the time to know the industry, players, products and invest time to build strong relationships. You may not get them on the first attempt. But remember building relationships takes time and energy.

Host Beneficiary Relationships – First of all what is a Host Beneficiary Relationship? Basically it is a partnership with a non-competing company that shares the same customers. For example since our company custom develops software applications, we have partnerships with companies who provide hardware like rugged PDA devices like Psion Teklogix. By building relationships with a “host” company you can then be the “beneficiary” of a referral. The strength of these relationships is that the roles can be reversed as in when you bring each other leads or opportunities. Because your shared customer profile is the same, bringing each other into a deal is a natural part of the business discussions and will be perceived by the customer as you providing more value to them.

Let me emphasize your long term success in sales or business is largely dependent upon the relationships you create not your ability to sell.

Question is what are you doing to nurture your relationships?

Author: Jody Sedrick
CEO, Zenware, Inc.