Developing strong client relationships is the backbone of your business. So, understanding how client relationships work, and the roles that sales and marketing both play, is extremely important.
If you’ve chosen to create buyer personas for your business and have had your sales and marketing teams align on this initiative, then you’re off to a great start.
Client Relationships & Client Evolution
Experts in the sales and marketing realm use differing processes to define the status of client relationships. Some follow a standard “sales funnel” approach, while others use a “buyer’s journey.” And of course, some use both.
Here at CFS, we certainly see the value in a sales funnel approach from a sales end and a buyer’s journey from a marketing perspective. That’s why we use what we refer to as the “client evolution model.” It combines the best of both worlds: the activities needed by both teams to move a prospective client up the relationship chart.
The Philosophy Behind the Client Evolution Model
Developing client relationships doesn’t begin and end when prospects become clients. It begins long before they become a client, and hopefully, long after.
Understanding where a person is in this process is important, because the action steps at each level of the relationship differs. These activities also vary from sales and marketing perspectives.
In order to effectively support a large number of relationships, it's helpful to separate them into categories and develop an approach for each category.
The Mechanics Behind the Client Evolution Model
The levels for client relationships are as follows:
- Partner – would recognize an adverse impact to their business if you leave
- Advocate – sees the value in working with you and is vested in your success
- Client – recognizes the value of your offering and is willing to pay a premium
- Customer – buys from you on a transactional basis – price, terms, and conditions
- Prospect – qualified prospective client
- Suspect – unqualified lead
On a quarterly basis, rank each of your accounts and develop an activity plan for each category.
Client Evolution Model Exercise
Similar to the buyer persona template exercise, we highly recommend getting your sales and marketing teams together to complete the client evolution model. This will align your teams on their responsibilities, and highlight areas where collaboration is necessary.
Develop a method for tracking relationship status, such as a field in your CRM. Then have each team member develop a quarterly plan for both selling activity and marketing activity at each level.
Typically, activities at the bottom of the model are broader, and they get more narrowly focused as you move higher in the client evolution relationship status.
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Photo Credit: Daniel Hjalmarsso