Most suppliers are dispensable. This is because it is not the seller’s competitive advantage that matters, but their ability to impact on the success of the customer’s business.
The seller’s ultimate goal in respect of key accounts is to become so important to the customer as to become embedded as a strategic partner. That means reaching a new level of inter-dependence and synergism that effectively makes the supplier’s position unassailable. The result is a two-way partnership for success.
From Supplier To Strategic Partner
The path from supplier to strategic partner is a long road on which many set out, but few ever truly arrive. It is also a journey that requires extraordinary effort and commitment over a long period of time. This fact explains why we often overestimate the true progress of the relationships we have developed with customers (as illustrated in the following diagram).
The supplier must demonstrate not only its capability to deliver, but a genuine commitment to the buyer’s success. Key elements of building such a strategic relationship are when:
• The supplier contributes to the achievement of an important customer objective or strategy in a manner that is visible, quantifiable and direct.
• The supplier has access to the buyer’s boardroom and is considered a trusted advisor.
• The customer calls on the supplier’s expertise.
• The supplier’s products and skills are considered to be specific or at least tailored to the unique requirements of the customer and its industry.
• The seller goes beyond meeting the customer’s present needs by anticipating future needs.
• The seller goes beyond merely providing products and services to the client, and focuses its resources on impacting on the customer’s business.
The seller ‘blurs the lines’ between the customer and supplier relationship by:
• Sharing people, ideas, technologies and so on.
• Inspiring the buyer, through innovation and leadership.
• Involving customers in product/process development.
• Integrating processes, systems, supply chains and shared assets.
• Sharing the risk and the reward, including new commercial models.
Commitment To Their Success
Getting the first sale requires helping the customer to buy. However, ensuring you get the second sale will come down to your ability to ensure your customer’s project succeeds.
Do your customers see your company as being genuinely and passionately committed to their success? The answer to this question is perhaps the ultimate measure of your company’s ability to sell more to its existing customers.
Growing revenue from existing customers requires identifying not just opportunities to up sell and cross sell, but new ways to contribute to the client’s short, medium and long-term success.
Ray Collis is a Facilitator and Director at The ASG Group and the author of 3 books . He teaches on the NEW IMI short programme “Growing Key Accounts“, starting on the 26th of October.