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Friday, January 28, 2011

CONNECTING IS NOT ENOUGH: Develop an Intimate Relationship with Your Clients

Connecting Is Not Enough with Andy Lopata

In his column this month, Andy Lopata looks at networking with our clients and the difference strong relationships can have on a long-term client relationship.

Andy discusses:

- Why you should build relationships with more than one key contact within a client business

- The importance of anticipating clients' needs and offering solutions...even if they don't involve you

- The business with happy clients that we all miss out on.

Client intimacy is vital to any successful business. How well do you know your best clients….and how well do they know you?

We can all be guilty of not developing strong enough relationships with our clients. It’s too easy to get to know one person well and find yourself out in the cold when that person leaves, or moves to another role. We can miss opportunities to offer more solutions by failing to keep in touch with developments in their business and a subsequent need for more support. We may not be able to be completely honest with them because they don’t trust us enough for us to comfortably challenge their approach to an issue.

Here are a few key things to consider when looking at your client relationships.

Build relationships wide as well as deep.

A strong rapport and level of trust with the person you deal with on a regular basis is, of course, essential when building a long-term business relationship. It also helps to develop a relationship with people around them, whether their peers, their bosses or people working below them.

Apart from the danger of losing your foothold in a company if your sole contact moves on, very often big purchasing decisions are made by a group of people, each with their own agenda, ideas and connections. More than one person fighting your corner will increase your chances of winning the business you’re looking for.

When your name comes up in discussion within the client company, what do people know about you and what you deliver for them? Are you relying on your sole contact within the firm to tell people, or are you in touch with them as well?

I spoke at a Conference last year where I met people from across the client company. I had conversations with the Chief Executive, Division Managing Director, Commercial Director, Sales Manager and a host of other people involved in sales and marketing in the company. I have also stayed in touch with many of them since, while dealing with my two key contacts on an ongoing basis.

This was not a unique occasion; I will always try to meet people from across a company where possible and keep in touch with many of the people I meet. Following up is just as important as making the connections in the first place, without it your efforts will be wasted.

How well can you anticipate your clients’ needs?

If you want to maximise the opportunities to work within a client’s organisation, you need to know their industry, what is happening internally and build tremendous levels of trust so that they will confide in you and ask for your opinion.

The more you understand about your clients’ ecosystem, who the key influencers are and what they base their decisions upon, the better positioned you will be to come up with the appropriate solutions at the right time.
Speak to colleagues who work with similar companies, as well as people working with other areas of your client company and learn from their experience. Attend industry events and participate in relevant online forums.

The deeper an understanding you have of your clients’ industry and firm, the more you will be able to anticipate issues before they arise, show a real insight into their needs and challenge them with new approaches where needed. That will help you develop more trust and help you become an invaluable resource that they will turn to time and time again.

Remember, it's not always about you. Get to know your client's business and their needs and offer solutions to those. Sometimes that might mean introducing them to someone else rather than putting forward your own solution, but showing them that you have their best interests at heart rather than your own will develop their trust and build greater loyalty.

Can you work in more than one area of the company?

If you are working with larger companies the chances are that you are working in one specific part of each organisation. With silos operating across many large businesses, one division will often be totally unaware of suppliers being used elsewhere.

Once you have proved yourself by doing a good job and getting positive feedback from your clients, do you ask them who else internally they can recommend you to? If you don’t, work out for yourself where else in the organisation your services or products would best fit, and ask if they can introduce you.

Even if they don’t know anyone there, they should be able to find out who their counterpart is and make a recommendation. If you have built your network at higher levels, the chances are that their contacts across divisions will be wider and their recommendations will be taken more seriously.

We are constantly told that it is six times more expensive to find new prospects rather than sell more to an existing client. Your network and your relationships with existing clients are key to your ability to sell more to them.

Client intimacy should be at the centre of your marketing strategy. Engage with your clients and they’ll engage you more!


Are you struggling to put an effective networking or referral strategy into place? Do you want to know more about how to ensure you get the maximum possible return from your networking?

Visit Andy's brand new website at for more resources and ideas about how Andy can help you.

Andy's new book, on how to generate an effective referral strategy, will be published later this year.

“In this book Andy Lopata demonstrates how so many businesses ignore potentially their most powerful resource – their networks. Andy’s in-depth, practical advice will show you how to both build and profit from the relationships in your network.”

Ivan Misner, NY Times Bestselling author and Founder of BNI and Referral Institute

Andy's Audio program, "Networking in Ninety Minutes," will give you the tools you need to make the most from your networking. Available in CD or mp3 format here.

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For more information, please visit Andy's TNNWC Bio.

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy

The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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