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How Strategic Long-Term Buying Relationships Are Creating Valued Customers

Customers benefit over the long-term when buying from you becomes a strategic decision.  Stronger buyer-seller relationships are formed around the client firm's financial performance gains.

According to a survey of purchasing executives, management of these relationships requires better evaluation of potential suppliers, building trust, and clearer communications.  

This study was performed by researchers of The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business and Arizona States University's College of Business with members of the National Association of Purchasing Management.  These same individuals make up the facilitators of your clients buying process.

To create profitable long-term relationships, make it easy for customers to do this with your business.  You must:

  1. Have clear channels of communications.  Simplify the communications process between decision maker, purchase agent, and your customer facing teams like marketing, sales, and service.
  2. Under promise always.? Make small deliverable promises you can readily keep instead of stretch goals when it comes to what is communicated to customer. Regular project successes help establish trust, and are critical to keep clients returning.
  3. Excel in difficult to measure soft areas.? By being better than your competition in emotional areas clients will find it difficult to work with someone else even when the numbers say they should. This means understand and connect with customers first, then serve.
  4. Be flexible with client preferences.? Cooperate and coordinate activities associated with the deliver of solutions in a way that best works for the recipient. This supports a long-term relationship by integrating your processes with theirs.
  5. Be proactive about alternative solutions.  Suggest improvements that improve client process and offer cost-saving alternatives.  These add to your "un-measurable benefits" that set you apart from the rest of your industry.
  6. Provide tools to measure improvement and quantify benefits.? While many of the suggestions here improve unquantifiable feelings, by encouraging clients to quantify them it reinforces the value. This can be as simple as a customer newsletter with product usage tips, or training programs that help clients to be more effective.
  7. Help clients get the information they seek in multiple mediums.? One project manager might want weekly written reports, while another wants near real-time project statistics by WBS. You must provide both so that you satisfy the larger percentage of requests. Each client will have different communications preferences; choose what works best for them.
  8. Know clients business in respect to your product.? The more you know about how customers use your product, the better you'll be able to anticipate their needs. This increase selling opportunities and improves their satisfaction.
  9. Sell through contract close.? Continue to sell your customer on the decision to choose you even after you have a contract. The role of marketing and sales doesn't stop after contract close. Keep selling the customer on their decision throughout the project to set expectations and monitor satisfaction.
  10. Document project successes in customers own words.? Echo customer's stories in your marketing copy. Focus future efforts first on what you've done well, using testimonials to reinforce value. Use only meaningful and believable comments, no fluff.
  11. Reduce the number of steps in the reorder process.? When blanket contracts were introduced in the federal government, contract dollar volume increased. Let a single contract open the door to various options that keep an active relationship with a profitable customer.
  12. Work with customer buying cycles.? Model your customer's behavior against others in the same industry, understand when your customer is most likely to purchase and be available more at those times. You'll keep the doors open longer if you focus primarily on customers ready to buy, rather than those who have to be persuaded.

Are your selling processes positioning a purchase from your organization as a strategic endeavor?  Your customer wants a unique advantage; why not position your organization to provide it as part of doing business with you.  Wouldn't this give you the unique distinction you need to shine in your market place?

/ customer-relations | interaction-points /

By Justin Hitt at November 1, 2005 12:59 AM

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