On the Relationship vs. In the Project. Why You Must do Both!!!

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For those of you (like me) that sell a solution that needs to be implemented, built or managed after the sale is made, it’s easy to fall into a trap.

This trap is known as working “In the Project”.

Working “In the Project” means focusing all your energy and client communication on the project itself including timeline, deliverables, issues, updates, etc…

So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what I am supposed to do? Yes, of course. No sense in making a sale to watch the relationship sour because one did not execute properly.

Why is this a trap?

Because while working “In the Project” is important, often, as sales people (who has to morph into Project Manager once the sales has been won), we forget to continue to work “On the Relationship”.
Working “On the Relationship” means setting time aside to talk to your customer about things unrelated to the project at hand including:

  • how their business is doing
  • What opportunities they see in their market place
  • What threats they feel from competitors or external factors
  • What their evolving goals are
  • What’s changing at their company
  • How are they feeling personally about things unrelated to the project at hand
  • What you and them have in common that can grow your personal relationship

Why Bother?

Working “On the Relationship”, in addition to working “In the Project”, offers many benefits: Your client will:

  • Feel more and more comfortable with you.
  • More likely open up to you about opportunities and/or concerns they have about your relationship.
  • View you as a “trusted advisor” vs. a “service-provider”.
  • Share all news – good or bad – sooner so you can react.
  • Increase their loyalty to/with you

But most importantly, very often while the decision maker is person X, once the sale is made, we are assigned person Y to work with. By actively working “On the Relationship”, we force ourselves back up-stream to get in front of our original decision maker (which we all know is the key person).

How to Implement:

For some people, working “On the Relationship” comes naturally … even instinctively. For the rest of us, I recommend 3 options (or a combination):

1. Set a reoccurring task in your CRM to have a formal “On the Relationship” chat.

2. If you have a standard “project review meeting” scheduled as part of your process, leave 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each meeting to ask an “On the Relationship” type question (assuming the right person is in attendance).

3. Drip little thoughts or “tidbits” of information – via email – to them about topics unrelated to their project but very related to their business. They will begin to see that your interests in them have broadened.

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