Relationships. People buy people. You may or may not agree with this statement.
Some debate whether you need to be "liked" in order to sell.
Or if "trust" is important in a selling process.
To be clear. I am not talking about the sort of selling that one might do on Amazon or equivalent. I don't care for the vendor, I have and never will meet the person selling the product, and nor do I care. Nor do you. Low risk, low-value buying, and selling do not fall into this.
Or does it? Reading this blog by Mary Adams written in 2013, whilst we don't care for the relationship with the seller, we do care about the customer experience Amazon provides us. We do care about the relationship we have with Amazon as a brand. We really care when we do not get the expected result from the experience we have become programmed to expect. The Intangible relationship capital we have invested with Amazon, and by proxy, the seller.
In the world of business to business, I don't really care if you agree with the "people buy people" statement. Sales and selling involve human interaction. This can be across all different sorts of mediums, from physical, to virtually, to actively and passively on social media networks. From those interactions, feelings happen. How did that person make you feel, how did the team make you feel? How did reading/watching/listening that social media post make you feel?
With feelings, come emotions. With emotions come reactions. It is the biological & chemical reactions that happen within the human body.
"Studies of oxytocin also have found that it is an important chemical messenger that controls some human behaviors and social interaction." https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/oxytocin
The relationship capital within your business is the key to success or failure. Not necessarily the failure of the business in its entirety, however, projects failing, poor team performance, salespeople or sales teams not making quota. One can see where a business fails due to the poor relationship capital between leadership and the rest of the business/shareholders/society - Enron? Lehman Brothers? These are of course extremes - however extremes people never believed possible, including the leaders themselves.
Arrogance? Maybe. Lack of foresight? Maybe.
Here we are in 2020.
What has changed? Everything. Yet nothing has changed. I have written about Antifragility https://www.amazon.co.uk/Antifragile-Things-that-Gain-Disorder/dp/0141038225 in other posts. An interesting concept for sure.
We are all connected in some shape and form. Facebook is getting close to there being 3billion people who use a Facebook product on a monthly basis. Taking into consideration China and some other countries who ban Facebook and those that have access to the internet, we are probably looking at almost all of the world's population is connected. LinkedIn is now at 690 million people on the platform and seeing a 26% increase in engagement.
I was always told that you have to invest in a business relationship before you can ask for something - the analogy used was that of a bank account. You have to put money into the account before you can make a withdrawal. I would suggest that you need to make an investment with any type of relationship for it to work. Just as you do with capital in the fiscal sense.
Let's take a step back though.
Every relationship has to start somewhere. How do they start?
With an introduction.
This could be an introduction on a cold call.
This could be an introduction on a cold email.
This could be an introduction on a cold connection request on LinkedIn.
This could be an introduction from one person to another.
I am going to focus on the final one. A person to person introduction. In business, a trusted referral is, in my view, the best way to start a B2B relationship. The cold approach still works for some in some industries, across all mediums. So let's not get into that pointless debate here.
Technology has been around for decades to help businesses understand who knows who. It is called Client Relationship Management (CRM). The challenge is that they have rarely been used to their full potential. Out of date data, not user friendly, marketing campaigns going awol, the list is endless.
Technology today can solve all of this. Genuinely. Products such as Introhive layered on top of your CRM system can give you as close to clean CRM data as you will get. LinkedIn Sales Navigator syncs not only with most CRMs on the planet, but it also syncs with other technology platforms through their SNAP program. They have also recently launched their data validation tool. Now you have CRM data, with Introhive data, your social data with LinkedIn. Add another layer with Bombora or Spikr and you get intent data. You could then add in a tool such as Salesloft to guide you on who to contact, when, and how.
Welcome to the world of the Sales CRM Technology Stack. All designed to help you access and understand your relationship capital in a more effective way.
To begin, nurture, manage business relationships for you.
I bet that is expensive you are thinking. You are right, in the cold light of day, this all adds up.
However, what is the cost to you as a business for not understanding the potential value of your relationship capital - which Mary describes in her blog as an "intangible asset".
I believe you can calculate a tangible (or close to) value of the business opportunity sitting within your relationship capital.
Assume you have 1000 employees in your business and 100 salespeople. Everyone knows someone or is connected to someone.
If each one of those employees were able to make 1 meaningful business introduction to your sales team.
10 Introductions per Sales Person or 1 new introduction per month, to each salesperson for 10 months.
Your avearge contract value/order value/sales value is £$€10,000
1000 unique & relevant introductions made, worth a potential of 10,000 each.
1000 x 10,000 = 10million pounds, dollars, euros etc of potential business opportunity.
The above technology solutions will seem like a bargain if you are able to access this sort of value in your relationship capital.
Of course, this is just the beginning.
As with any relationship, they ebb and flow.
They don't always work out the way that you want them to.
They do, however, all start somewhere.
The question is, where is that somewhere in your business.
These relationships have always been there, maybe now you have the 2020 vision to see them.
Relationship Capital is one of the four cornerstones of intangible capital. It can be both an asset and/or a liability depending on how stakeholders view the performance of your relationship capital. This includes all kinds of relationships with customers, partners, suppliers, community, government, media, institutions, groups and people who have an interest in the success of your organization. All these interactions involve the sharing of knowledge, the solving of problems and the creation of connections--and the creation of brand and reputation. If it works, you’re creating value. If it doesn’t work, you’re destroying value.