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How to Build Strong, Profitable Customer Relationships

Today’s post is by Rick Reynolds, a co-founding partner and CEO of AskForensics, which helps Fortune-ranked companies win more deals and strengthen multimillion-dollar accounts. Reynolds is an expert in sales and account forensics, having led thousands of investigations for more than 25 years to help clients identify sales growth and account retention opportunities.

Many factors contribute to creating strong B2B customer relationships, but every sales team has a limited amount of time and resources. How do you know which actions will have the most impact on developing strong customer relationships?

While every customer is unique, there are several top predictors of strong B2B accounts, as identified by the 2016 AskForensics Sales Analysis, which features sales and account data from B2B executives of accounts totaling more than $2.3 billion in total contract value, with an average account size of $16.8 million. By concentrating efforts on these key factors, your sales team can position itself to not just meet, but exceed customer expectations.

Top Predictors of Strong Accounts

If you want customer relationships to be strong, you have to know what makes them strong. Below are the top factors that have the biggest positive impact on customer relationships. Data shows that many factors contribute to strong customer relationships, but the top predictors of strong accounts are: providing a high level of account support, service quality, and delivering financial performance.

Cited as a priority by 64 percent of decision makers evaluated – above all other factors – is strong account support from a provider. It far outshone other factors, including

  • Service quality (18 percent)
  • Financial performance (11 percent)
  • Superior performance to competition (4 percent)
  • Communication, reporting, and analysis (2 percent) and value (2 percent)

What Strong Account Support Looks Like

Clearly, B2B buyers value account support, but what does strong account support look like? Account support is multifaceted and often includes support from both the corporate team and the customer-facing teams (comprising both sales and account support teams). Data shows that the level of industry expertise and proactive recommendations provided by the corporate account support team are the most critical factors for developing strong accounts.
In addition, B2B buyers also expect customer-facing sales and account support teams to deliver measurable results and demonstrate that they highly value the customer relationship through understanding and meeting their needs, marshaling corporate resources to help them, and resolving problems before they escalate. In other words, make the customer’s job easier.

What Does “Service Quality” Mean to Buyers?

The next top predictor, service quality, boils down to how well you, as a provider, are able to help customers improve their performance, but it isn’t enough for a customer-facing team to provide a high level of service quality. B2B buyers are looking for providers who will maintain a consistent level of high-quality service over time. This responsibility usually falls on customer-facing teams.

The third top predictor, financial performance, entails a provider excelling at budget management and proactively seeking to increase the customer’s revenue.

The margin between an account that is strong and one that is vulnerable or damaged is surprisingly small, so it is critical to continually invest sufficient resources into the pronounced and subtle actions that make your accounts strong in the first place. A little bit of effort in addressing the top predictors of strong accounts goes a long way in building healthy, long-lasting, and profitable customer relationships.

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