Written by Rob Malec
Often in sales, you communicate with one individual within the buyer’s organization to get deals done. But if any of your client relationships hinge on a single point of contact at the firm, you’re putting your business at risk. In this scenario, you are in an unstable arrangement; one wrong move and that customer (and all the associated revenue) goes away. That’s why you need to build a strong network of customer relationships within your current client base to future-proof your business.
3 Wide and 3 Deep: A Model for Expanding Customer Relationships
When you have a 3 wide and 3 deep contact network [three contacts within each of three different departments] for each client, you can rest easy knowing you have stable business. This way if a key decision-maker leaves the company, you still have two other contacts to fall back on as you build a relationship with the incumbent. The bonus is that if one of those contacts gets promoted, your company goes along for the ride with them. If you have a great customer relationship with the contact who is leaving, you may even get introduced to a potential new client at their new company.
Deepening the connection within your client’s company is one part of the equation. The other is to deepen their connection with your company. Having multiple people from your company connected to multiple people within the buyer’s company allows for greater communication and bridge-building.
These two things are the currency of excellent customer relationships. Cultivating multiple connections means that if one of your salespeople leaves, taking clients with them will be much more difficult. The rule of thumb here is that the primary relationship should be company to company, rather than salesperson to buyer.
How to Ensure a 3 Wide and 3 Deep Contact Network With Your Clients
Sometimes achieving a 3 wide and 3 deep contact network with a client happens organically over the years. As with all things business development, relying on an organic process or the passage of time is not a prudent way to deepen your client contact base. In my role as a Fractional VP Sales, it’s been my experience that purposeful connection building is the most efficient and effective path to positively influencing client retention. So how then do you increase the client connections?
Have Your Primary Contact Introduce You to Others in the Company
Adding client connections can be done by having your main contact escort you up or down the organizational chart or to departments other than the one you typically work with to establish new customer relationships.
If you and your clients are regularly conducting business, then opportunities to meet other people within their organization will come about regularly. When a client contact says, “Let me speak to my boss/counterpart”, take the opportunity to suggest a meeting for the three of you instead. This type of interaction will not only facilitate contact-creating opportunities but also likely help spur decision-making around the issue at hand and get to the next steps more smoothly.
Schedule Regular Customer Business Review Meetings
If you don’t interact with your client connections as a daily course of doing business, then instituting regular Customer Business Review meetings with your large and medium clients is a good way to facilitate introductions and new customer relationships.
Suggesting “Senior Executive-to-Senior Executive” meetings brings people together who otherwise might not have an occasion to meet. Such interactions invariably lead to the discovery of synergies and new and better ways to work together.
Leverage Your Current Customer Relationships to Make New Connections
Asking current customers for connections to their suppliers is another way to deepen your Rolodex. If you have a trusted relationship, your client will likely be open to making such a connection. If you have a long-standing and trusted relationship, your client might even introduce you to their customers.
Discussing how to establish 3 wide and 3 deep connections is something I do regularly in my role as a sales coach. As with all things, there is a great deal of nuance around building a more stable client base. Feel free to reach out at [email protected] if you would like to discuss your situation and the specifics of how to implement this in your business.