How strong are your relationships with your customers? Many companies overlook the opportunity to get to know their customers, a process that can lead to finding new and different ways to expand their business relationship.
“Our success comes through relationships and partnerships,” says Bart Beatty, director of Sales and Business Development for Simplify Inc. “Our business allows us to solution-sell. That’s extremely important because we offer so many options and products that we have the ability to give the customer the right solution — to not be hamstrung to one product or carrier. Our solution-oriented partnering empowers them to make informed, fiscally responsible decisions that best fit their needs.”
Smart Business spoke with Beatty about the importance of developing relationships with clients.
How do relationships affect the sales process?
If a customer comes in with an idea, we strategize with them on how to achieve their goals. There’s not just one or two ways to get there. There may be five or six different options. When we enter a situation with a multi-location customer, we start by analyzing their capabilities, needs and what they are trying to do. Presenting many different options helps the customer make a more informed decision and gives them leverage.
It’s very important to be a true partner instead of just a vendor. Being a true partner creates a different kind of relationship with your customer.
What’s the difference between a partner and a vendor?
Vendors talk to their customers; partners talk with their customers.
Customers have one-sided conversations with their vendors. Customers ask vendors ‘Tell us what you can do, tell us what your products and services are and we’ll make the decision.’
True partners become part of the team and have more of a strategy session with the customer than a ‘tell me what you can do’ conversation. A true partner’s goal is not to fulfill a quota, but to understand the customer’s plans and strategize with them to help them get to where they’re going.
How can one be a true partner, not just a vendor?
Our philosophy focuses not on the quantity of customers, but on the quality and how much value we can bring them. It allows the relationship to have more of a personal touch. There are four key areas that we walk through with every client to develop that relationship.
It starts with research and analysis. We sit down with a client and analyze their current environment. As part of the research and analysis, we do an audit-like function where we break down their invoices and contracts and benchmark where they are today.
Second is strategy. Once we have done the research and know where they are, we strategize on where they may want to go. Many customers have an idea where they want to go, and others don’t. So we sit down with them and say, ‘a lot of the companies in your demographic or industry are going here.’ That can help them make the decision.
With a strategy completed, the third step is fulfillment. Once they have decided which way they want to go, we help them get there with full-time project management.
The fourth and final step is ongoing support, or lifecycle management. After the research is done, the decision is made and the implementation is complete, we continue to support them with lifecycle management. This includes performing the day-to-day tasks, essentially being an extension of their team and helping them manage their telecom business, which allows them to focus on their other projects or duties.
How do you strengthen a client’s comfort level with you?
The first step, the research, really creates that trust. We do an eight- to 12-week analysis process. That builds trust, because they see that we bring them a detailed analysis of where they are today, at no cost to them.
When we move to the next step, strategy, the client is more comfortable with us because we did all this work on the front end, without requiring any commitment from them.
How does building a relationship affect the consulting stage of the process?
Often, a customer comes in with his or her mind dead-set on a particular direction; like switching to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). But after reviewing the deep dive analytics and realizing that may not be the best fit for his or her current environment, the customer’s vision may take another direction.
Having the trust of the customer is so important for a consultant, especially during the strategy phase. Normally, a telecom carrier representative doesn’t offer the breadth of products a customer may want. No matter how good that carrier rep or team is, they can only do so much. By providing a universal account team to fill in the gaps for the customer, we give them one point of contact for all their business.
When we sit down with customers, they know we aren’t just selling them one product. With that mindset, the customer knows he or she can open up and be honest because of that trust. It’s all about finding the best options for the customer.
Bart Beatty is director of Sales and Business Development for Simplify Inc. Reach him at email@example.com or (972) 292-7510.