Point 2 (of 6). Many critical influencers don’t have any existing relationships with our clients. We’ve recently concluded one of our Influencer Perception Audits for a client of ours – one of the best known global software companies. One you would imagine knew everybody who mattered.
Having identified the top market influencers in a particular business sector we conducted a one-to-one audit on how each of those identified influencers currently viewed our client in that sector. One of the questions we asked was ‘ Do you have any existing working relationship with any of (our client’s) point executives, and if not, is this something you would like to have?’ It’s a typical starting point question we ask so we’ve come to know the likely trend in responses. The findings are made more interesting by the fact that in advance of the audit, we ask our client which influencers they already have a working relationship with.
As emphasized in our most recent audit, our client’s execs typically believe they have existing working relationships with perhaps 50-60% of the individual influencers. Sometimes it’s less, but rarely more. When we ask those identified influencers the same question, closer to 20% believe they have a working relationship with any of our client’s execs.
How much of this ‘over-belief’ by the client’s execs is just the bravado of human nature, how much is “I might have met him/her only once but I’m sure they’ll remember me”, and how much is the assumption that “it may not be me personally that knows him/her but I’m sure one of our team must know them”, is impossible to say. But our experience shows that it is never the case that the influencers believe they have a better relationship with the client than vice-versa. Clients always over-estimate the strength of their relationships. Sometimes by an astonishing degree.
It makes me wonder to what degree this also relates to the executives’ working relationships with their prospects & customers. How accurate is their gauging of the strength of those relationships? If there were a similar 30-40% gap between opinions then that could explain plenty of lost sales.
Aside from informal surveys such as ours I’m not sure how many vendors seek to qualitively measure the strength of their existing relationships. The acid test most used – “did you win the sale?” – is a winner-takes-all moment in time, with no opportunity for a second attempt. So the homework needs to be done in advance. Starting with the customer’s key influencers.