Should You Be Friends with Your Key Contact?

Over time, a sales rep will develop a territory that is familiar and full of strong relationships. By all standards this is a desirable situation, and reaching this point requires preparation, hard work, determination, and resilience. A natural byproduct of these frequent visits – especially if you’re friendly and outgoing – is the formation of a personal friendship with your key contact(s).

You may know each other’s birthdays, families, and professional goals. Although this familiar and warm relationship is a comfort and perhaps a break from the arduous routine of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, it may breed a sense of complacency and an attitude of status quo.

While we would never suggest that you alter these relationships or even deter them from forming, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure an ongoing win-win for both parties.

Stay Semi-Social

Rather than viewing this regular appointment as a personal visit to catch up with a friend, try leveraging the relationship to gain a better understanding of the client and to reap additional business. The hard work you put in to land this client shouldn’t be taken for granted, nor should it exploited. Use your friendship as a means to do your job and to enjoy working with your key contact and others in the organization to find additional solutions that further imbed your company and its products and services into the account.

Strategize Relationships

Week after week, do you see the same person in Accounting, in Technology, or in the CMO’s office? If that’s the case, there are undoubtedly other contacts you can make in this account. Ask your key contact to introduce you to the Director of Technology, or invite the HR Manager to lunch with you and your pal. Your key contact can facilitate the introductions and coordinate the event. Ask him or her to “grease the wheels” to smooth the interaction. Your ability to learn more about all facets of the company and to involve other decision-makers or leaders will assist you in creating your ongoing strategy.

Conduct Competitor Research

As you get to know people in other departments, probe these individuals to discover what products they currently are using—what they like about them—and what these products lack in functionality, content, updates, and adaptability/interaction with the existing infrastructure? Why did they buy Product X? What do they wish they knew when they bought the product that they know now? When you deal with the competition, you should have a solid understanding of all of the players and how your solution stacks up.

Align Your Strategy

There is a significant difference between coasting and maintaining a relationship. That difference is a strategy for the relationship, and an action plan to achieve results. Your strategy must be aligned around the objectives for the client. Have you analyzed and articulated the opportunities? Do you have a sense of what needs to be done to benefit from those opportunities? When you are ready, set realistic parameters for this plan and begin.

Lastly, try performing a SWOT Analysis, which involves examining your client relationship in four ways: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. If you can honestly assess your SWOT without your BFF getting in the way, you should be able to maintain your win-win.