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How to Transform Your B2B Client Relationships: From Supplier to a Trusted Partner

When I coach sales teams with their account strategy, I apply the Account Transformation Framework by Professor Hawkins as part of my toolkit.

The first step is to understand what is the level of relationship you have with your client.

In the B2B world, relationships with clients can vary greatly depending on the level of trust and collaboration between the two parties. Let's explore the four potential relationships that you can have with your B2B client, as well as strategies for addressing each one.

In this framework, there are four types of B2B client relationships.

The Four B2B Client Relationships

  1. Solution supplier: This is the most common relationship, where clients know what they need, and the work is driven by the purchasing department. It's often competitive and involves responding to RFPs.

  2. Strategic advisor: In this relationship, the client's needs are known, and the salesperson acts as a strategic advisor, providing expert knowledge about sector trends and working collaboratively with the client to determine the future solution.

  3. Integrated trust relationship: Here, the client's current patterns, processes, culture, and needs are hidden from view, and the sales team compassionately and appreciatively reveals their blind spot and open to change.

  4. Performance partner: This is the highest level of relationship, where there is a joint investment and shared risk between the client and the sales team. The focus is on addressing future needs that cannot be predicted with certainty, and the sales team acts as a performance partner.

Where do you sit with your client?

Are you a solution supplier or a strategic adviser?

Now that you know your level of relationship with your client, how will you transform your account relationship? How will you engage with your client to move to a trusted partner?

Strategies for Addressing Each Relationship

  1. Solution supplier: They focus on delivering an efficient and effective solution that meets the client's needs. They respond to RFPs, but may also consider offering other solutions that may not have been requested.

  2. Strategic advisor: In this relationship, they focus on building trust and providing expert knowledge about sector trends. They work collaboratively with the client to determine the future solution.

  3. Integrated trust relationship: These sales teams compassionately reveal the client's hidden patterns, processes, culture, and needs. They provide transformation initiatives to fix problems and improve the overall situation.

  4. Performance partner: In this relationship, sales teams provide technical leadership, and business foresight, and are able to identify all the blind spots of the client. The relationship is focused on joint investment and shared risk. They work collaboratively with the client to address future needs that cannot be predicted with certainty.

Often, account teams lack the skill and discipline to generate and deliver the added value of business foresight and organizational insight that would differentiate them from other product or service providers. Below is a guide on the expertise and value you can offer.

  1. Solution Supplier - The expertise and language you use will be technical.

  2. Strategic Advisor - The expertise and language you use will be business foresight.

  3. Integrated Trust Relationship - The expertise and language you use will be company insight.

  4. Performance partnership - This is all about ways of partnering. These are out-of-the-box thinking and game-changing deals.

B2B client relationships can vary greatly, and it's important to understand where you sit in the four potential relationships. By addressing each relationship with the appropriate strategies, you can build trust, provide expert knowledge, and work collaboratively with your clients to meet their needs and address future challenges.

I know this is a short piece of information for an important strategic framework.

Would you be interested in a deeper explanation on a webinar? I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate you!💜



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