In our channel universe, we all know that professional relationships are critical to success and survival--and that not all relationships are equal. Often, channel partners must navigate the tricky terrain of successfully managing both vendor and customer relationships. Sometimes, that’s not an easy task.
I find that savvy channel partners have the ability to keep successful and rewarding relationships with their vendors and, even more importantly, with their customers. Regardless of the method that you use to manage those relationships, the key is maintaining them at a high level of satisfaction.
At some point you may come to a crossroads with a customer. How do you deal with customers who are high-maintenance, but you need their business? Or, maybe you’re dealing with customers who are low-maintenance and easy to manage, but are low profit and may not be worth keeping?
Now and then, you may sit down with your team and talk about who to keep and who to cut. Unless you can net down the pros and cons, this can turn into a circular discussion that you keep having, with no results.
I came across an interesting way to help you evaluate the value of your relationships to determine which ones are strategic and which ones serve only to suck time and resources out of your day and frustrate you.
The Strategic Relationship Matrix is the brainchild of author and productivity guru Michael Hyatt. He was inspired to design it from the basis of the Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) Growth-Share Matrix, which was developed in the late 70s as a portfolio-planning model.
Just as a refresher, the BCG model is based on the rationale that a company's business units can be classified into four categories: dogs, question marks, stars and cash cows. A classification is based on combinations of market growth and market share relative to the largest competitor, thus the name "Growth Share."
I like Hyatt’s Strategic Relationship Matrix because he positions it as a way that you and your team can discuss and add analysis to in order to determine the value of the current relationships that you have with your customers. Are they easy and profitable, or are they draining and difficult to maintain? Up to what point do you keep the relationship, whether it’s a customer or vendor?
Hyatt’s model is an easy way to do this exercise and to prioritize those relationships in a visual way. His blog on his model nicely explains how to use it.
Why is Rating Customer (or Vendors) Important?
I’m not going to summarize Hyatt’s blog--you can read that for yourself. The bigger question is why should you bother? From my perspective, it’s simple: Time is finite and valuable, and you need to invest it where you’re going to get the most return.
By prioritizing your relationships, whether those are customers or vendors, you know where to aim your focus. Let’s face it: We all have only so much time and budget, so prioritization is the key to effectiveness. Every professional relationship your organization has should have a level of maintenance assigned and a corresponding level of action associated.
As an example, the profile of a high-profit, low-maintenance relationship is one you certainly want to replicate with your prospective customers. What are their key attributes, and how can you find more like them?
I like Hyatt’s model because it makes sense. Focus where you can reap the greatest benefit. It’s that simple. You can use this to gauge the value of your vendor relationships, products that you carry, customer relationships and more.
There are only 24 hours in a day. Make the most of them.
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