Article Summary: [Part 1 of 2] Has this ever happened to you? You have an excellent working relationship with a key decision maker (let’s call her Susan) at BestClient Organization. Over time, you have built up a strong bond with Susan, based on consistent quality and value. Your strong relationship has guaranteed a contract renewal each year. Then (cue the playing of scary music) a reorganization occurs. Susan departs. BestClient STILL needs you. With Robby now running the department, what are you going to do? Four key steps are outlined in this two-part series to develop new internal champions. This article focuses on our Expand by 8 approach and tool, to help you keep your customers forever.
Keep Your Top Customers Forever: Ensure Long-Term Retention with Expand by 8, Part 2
Copyright © 2009. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. and ThinkBusiness Magazine
Ira J. Koretsky
[This is a two-part article. The first article is, Keep Your Top Customers Forever: Ensure Long-Term Retention with Internal Champions, Part 1]
Here is a brief summary of the scenario presented in part one. You have an excellent working relationship with a key decision maker, Susan, at BestClient Corporation. Over time, you have built up a strong bond with her based on consistent quality and value. Your strong relationship has guaranteed a contract renewal each year. Suddenly without any notice to you, Susan departs after a company reorganization.
Were you prepared for this scenario?
At any time, you may find your relationship in jeopardy because of a variety of potentially significant events. Examples include promotions, change of management, acquisitions, mergers, reorganization, and retirements.
To minimize your downside risks from these potentially significant events, you want to Expand by 8 your relationships at your customers. Last month’s article covered steps one and two of the four steps. Step 1 is Develop Your Top Customer Profile (TCP). Step 2 is Identify New Champions. Champions are people in your customer’s organization with whom you have a very strong relationship AND where each champion has significant status. Significant status includes decision makers, major influencers, opinion leaders, executives, and thought leaders. The “AND” here is very important, as each key person must be in some type of decision-making position.
Step 3. Expand by 8
From Part 1, you developed a list of your top customers ranked according to a model for customer risk analysis. With your list sorted, lowest to highest, the lowest numbers of champions in your customer’s organization and where you should focus your attention to increase your champions, and therefore, reduce your risk.
Let’s identify your future internal champions.
Take out a blank piece of paper and draw the diagram shown here.
The circles and arrows in the figure are guides helping you identify key relationships to your champion. Change the circles, icons, arrows, etc. to best fit your situation at your customer’s organization. The important point is the inner circle represents the strongest, first-degree connections to your Champion. For Expand by 8 to be successful, these must be the most important relationships.
Here’s a suggested approach that works in most cases. If you do not know a person’s name, use a job title as a placeholder.
- Write the name of your current best champion in the center blank circle. For this article, let’s refer to her as Carol.
- Add the name of Carol’s direct boss near icon 1
- Add colleagues with whom Carol has a close, trusted working relationship near icon 3 and icon 4
- Add Carol’s right hand to icon 2
- Add names/titles to icons 5 through 8
With these 8 names, you are ready to Expand by 8. Develop a plan to expand your internal network in your top customer organization at risk. Then rinse and repeat for all of your customers in Segment 1, followed by Segments 2 and 3.
Step 4. Build Internal Champions
To grow your internal network requires building internal champions within your customer organizations. This task requires patient deliberateness to expand your champions. This is more than just simple networking. These internal champions are the ones that sign your contracts, advocate on your behalf when it comes time for contract renewal, lobby to continue working with you when a competitor is knocking on the door, and so on. These are the people that “have your back.” These are YOUR champions.
Make specific choices of how and where you spend your time. The 8 names you just identified are now part of your Target Relationship Plan (TRP). I strongly recommend you have TRP for each of your top customers. Start with Segment 1 and expand to Customer Segment 2 and Customer Segment 3. In your plan, identify specific activities you will do to build and maintain relationships with each of the 8 newly identified future champions. I call these activities, Moments of Impact or MOIs. MOIs can be by telephone, by email, in writing, and in person.
MOIs fall into two categories. I am always refining my list of more than 50 MOIs. Here are a few to start you off.
- Simple. Examples include a) Email a suggestion for an article, blog, book, magazine, conference, restaurant, movie, or sporting event; b) Send a card for a birthday, anniversary, or as a thank you; and c) Make referrals to other businesses to solve business challenges outside your expertise.
- Thoughtful. These MOIs take time and effort. How much depends upon you schedule. Examples a) Meet for coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks; b) Send a small gift personalized and unexpected; and c) Assume a leadership role on an association committee.
A few thousand years ago, Menandros Chiaramonti, a famous Greek dramatist, said that, “The character of a man is known from his conversations.” Extend this to everything you do with and for your customers beyond the actual contracted work. Think of these relationships as if you were building friendships. In this case, you are making business friends—for life.
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Updated Content 2019, Updated image
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