Trust and positive experience are becoming the most significant components in people's decision making process in the 21st century – as it relates to whom we chose to work and interact with. It's simply no longer enough to have a technological or pricing related competitive advantage in order to win the business.
The most difficult situation decision makers are being forced to live with nowadays, as the world becomes more complex and reality changes in ever faster intervals, is an ever growing(and deeply troubling) sense of uncertainty.
It looms over decision makers from the moment they wake up and 'till the moment they fall asleep. The result: an every growing gravitation towards people whom they trust and consider part of their Comfort Zone.
Relationship building & management is emerging as one of the most effective ways, and necessary skills, for generating positive experience and real trust among clients of larger international corporations.
ROI of enhanced trust through relationship management
Business ROI (external, customer facing):
1. Secure and grow existing business with the related account (exiting RFPs).
2. Expand beyond your existing business with the related account (new leads).
3. Ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction (CAST).
Operational ROI (internal, interface management):
1. Increased operational synergy (less escalations, consistency and alignment).
2. Increase collaboration (higher effectiveness).
3. Enhanced employee satisfaction (EAST).
Great relationships take time to build, even under the best of circumstances – let alone in situations in which negative feelings have already emerged out of continuous frictions and escalations. Still, it's the time it takes that makes great relationships such a valuable competitive differentiator.
There are three pillars on which a program dedicated to improving a team's relationship building and management competencies rely on:
Awareness relates to the teams base line understanding of the importance of good relationships, not only in the company's greater business context but also in the quality of their own daily interactions. This understanding is the key to their mindset and motivation to invest the necessary resources (mainly time and energy) in this process.
Skills relate to the teams ability to plan and carry out the activities and action items that are part of the relationship management process, including their interpersonal communication skills as they interact with the key stakeholders with whom they have determined having a better relationship is strategically important.
System relates to the accountability your team is held to by their direct manager and in context of the quality of their relationships with their key interfaces (key stakeholders). This is a critical component, not only because without it – your team will natually prioritize other areas of focus where they do feel they are being held accountable, but also because this cannot be done by an external entity (trainers or coaches). The bottom line is that employees are playing a daily survivor's game, trying to meet their targets with the least amount of negative friction with their managers. They will naturally prioritize and focus on the activities that their managers follow-up on with them the most.
At this point, you may already understand that developing your team's relationship management (trust building) competencies is not an ad-hock, single time training event.
Investing in your people's relationship building and management skills requires a continuous process and a critical mass of attention, relying both on external training and consulting by relationship management experts and an internal ownership by the managers to whom the trainees report and are accountable to (=System). The active involvement of these managers – ensuring a consistent continuous focus on the mindset of their teams – is a critical component in the success of this proposed project.
This is why it's so important to kick off a relationship building training process by first identifying the right manager(s) who have a natural predisposition to the importance of this core competency and who will stay the course and keep their team committed, even during high pressure periods.
Given the ongoing nature of such a training process, it is important to use Relationship KPIs in order to enable empiric measurement of your progress, all the way to actual business ROI metrics (such as "Life Time Value" of an account, "New Business Opportunities" and of course "Total Revenue" from an account).
Finally, when you decide to embark on a relationship building and management training process for a team (or number of teams) in your organization, I strongly recommend involving your internal HR and OD "Business Partners" in processes from the very start. After all, while relationship management is a critical aspect of your business's ability to succeed, it is nevertheless only one aspect within a wider range of aspects that make a winning team.