It’s easy to get trapped in a transactional relationship with your dream client when you should have one that is deeper and more strategic. You may be doing an excellent job with the transactional business you are given, but that isn’t enough to move you up the levels of value creation.
You need to do more. You need to be more.
Here are ten actions you can take to build your way out of transactional and into a strategic relationship.
Don’t underestimate how important it is for you to perform well on the transactional business that you do now. Your dream client is keeping score, and it’s important that your reviews are good. It’s not enough to move you up, but keeps you in the game and gives you access.
It is far easier to sell to an existing client than it is a prospect. You already have some relationships. You already have an agreement. And you are not calling on them as a salesperson—you are calling on them as a current supplier (one who is working towards becoming a partner).
Open More Relationships
Your position as a current supplier gives you easier access to the people that work at your dream client company. Your access needs to be leveraged to open more relationships vertically throughout your dream client’s organizational chart.
You improve your chances of moving into a more strategic relationship by moving north through their organizational chart, trying to develop C-level relationships. But you make it easier by having something useful to talk about when you get to the C-suite. You do that by collecting the relationships south of the C-level—that is where you discover the ground truth.
Focus on relationships.
Open Peer Relationships
During the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in détente. They believed that it would much more difficult for someone to push the button and engage a nuclear war if they had friends in the other country. There were literally thousands of people in each country with friendly relations in the other country. There were established peer relationships with their counterparts with the other side.
You don’t usually become a strategic partner by yourself. You need relationships, but you also need your team to have relationships with your dream client’s team. The more and the deeper are these relationships, the greater the likelihood of your creating something more than transactional. Your higher-ups need relationships with their higher ups. Your operations people with their operations people. And so on down the line.
You facilitate peer relationships.
Discover Their Business Objectives
If you are doing transactional business, you are providing goods and services at the least, and you are creating a business outcome at best. Moving up to strategic means you have to begin working on higher value creating challenges and opportunities for your transactional client.
You have to tie what you do to what your client is focused on improving.
Your access to the people within the company is worthless if you don’t use those relationships to get an education. You need to learn about your client’s business objectives.
Your client has a current state and desired state. Regardless of how well they are doing now, they are looking for an improvement in the future. You have to discover what that improvement is and what it means to them.
Bring Them Ideas
If you want to be thought of as strategic, you have to bring your clients ideas. You have to help them to think about their business. Your ideas about what the future looks like and how your clients should move into that future are the ideas that move you up from transactional.
Your clients are not subject matter experts in what it is that you sell. They count on you to be that subject matter expert. They expect you to know and understand the bigger trends. And they expect you to help them see around corners. That makes you a strategic resource.
Schedule Business Review Meetings
If you want to have big conversations about working together at a higher level in the future, schedule and hold business review meetings now. These meetings are a great reason to get stakeholders together, to report on your performance, to share ideas, and to begin to discuss what you might do together in the future.
One way to get this wrong is to believe that you need to wait until you have the strategic value-creating relationship to hold these meetings. When you behave like a transactional provider, you are treated like a transactional provider. When you behave like a strategic partner, you will be treated like one.
You set the expectation for yourself by holding yourself accountable to being something more. Have the meetings a strategic partner would have right now.
Show Them Their Future
If you can create more value than you presently are as a transactional vendor, you need to show your dream client what their future might look like. You do this by taking all you’ve learned and showing your dream client their future.
You show them where they should be expecting a better result from you. You show them where they are leaving money on the table. You show them what they should expect from themselves and what their clients are going to expect from them in the future.
Your usefulness as a partner is helping them to define and to shape their future.
Tell Them What You Want
Your dream client is busy working. They may not know and understand what you want from them or what they should expect from you.
There is nothing wrong with saying something like: “We believe we can do more to make a difference for you in this area, and we’d like to discuss some ideas with you.” There is nothing wrong with saying: “We’d really like to be a more strategic partner, and we have some ideas that we believe will make a difference for you here.”
If you behave like someone who owns a bigger outcome, your dream clients will give you the opportunity to own bigger outcomes.
Tackle a Bigger Problem
Sometimes you have to earn your way. Sometimes it is necessary to tackle the biggest, hairiest problem you can find to prove yourself worthy of moving up. This is especially true if you have the ability to make the difference and your dream client suspects that you can.
You may not want their worst order. You may not need their worst order. But you may benefit from helping them with their worst order.
By helping your dream client where they need the most help, you can earn your right to a greater relationship. But remember, you have to link what you do here with the future outcome you want. It’s okay to ask: “If we help you with this difficult order, can we have the opportunity to work with you in this other area where we can also make a difference?”
Do something that makes a difference.
You become a more strategic partner when you start to behave more strategically. When you start identifying and owning outcomes, you become part of your client’s team. When you join your client’s meetings to work on their problems and challenges, you move up as a value creator; you become part of their team.
When you start proactively finding ways to make a difference, and when you hold yourself accountable for doing so, you become someone with whom it is worth having a strategic relationship.
How do you move from transactional to strategic?
What do you have to do for your clients to be someone more valuable to them?
What do you have to know in order to create more value and to move up to strategic?
Why do some sales organizations get stuck in transactional?