The Relationship Test

How many times have you sat through one of those account reviews or opportunity planning sessions where progress has been slow? I am not talking about the clueless ones - rather the ones where the sales team is acutely aware of the client's business but they've been unable to capitalize.

You have heard about how wonderful our relationship is with our contacts but still have this uneasy feeling about the real state of the relationships - namely, why don't we have more relationships across the organization and at higher levels within the enterprise?

The Relationship Test is easily the best indicator of the true health of these accounts and opportunities, and it is simply this question: Have they introduced you to others within their organization? Not are they willing to, but have they actually facilitated an introduction? And to whom have they introduced you within their organization? The rush week scene in the classic National Lampoon's Animal House provides a example of the wrong type of intros.

The quality and quantity of these introductions are the litmus test for one's relationships for which you as the sales leader must ask, "Why or why not?" Chances are you won't like the answers, but it's important to hear each of these reasons and probe deeper for understanding. Some teams will clearly articulate value, risk and current relationships, other issues may be more cultural in nature and require your engagement. Regardless of the reasons, the quantity and quality of introductions provide an accurate view of the state of accounts' relationships.

So forget your red-yellow-greens, sponsor/champion entries and social-surround tactics and reports. Rather plot your teams' relationships and the connections they've made for you - and those they haven't. This assessment will help your team plan an effective sales strategy forward with your accounts.