Here is the challenge: Sociologists tell us that an average individual can proactively manage between 100 and 150 relationships. How do you know which ones to nurture? If you believe my notion that true relationship development (versus transactional networking) is about intentional investments you choose to make, how do you then prioritize which relationships you’ll invest in? You certainly can’t invest in everyone equally, so how do you or will you balance relationship creation and bridge those efforts to relationship capitalization?
The following provide two examples of Tactical vs. Strategic activities when it comes to building long-lasting business relationships.
Tactical Relationship Planning
Planning is extrapolation of the present. Specifically, what am I doing today, and how can I do more of it? In a revenue growth example, the organization evaluates its current portfolio of products and services, market conditions, and its sales force and plans a revenue growth target. It then divides that target among its sales force, so Steve, who has a geographic territory or a handful of named accounts, will have to generate $10M in top-line revenue as his quota for next year. Steve then starts to panic because he generated only $7M in sales this year; he decides which accounts, transactions, and thus relationships he needs to reach his new target. What Steve and his organization are thinking about is often their ‘‘existing relationships,’’ which for many is a very limited universe, compared with anticipated or, better yet, created relationships.
Strategic Relationship Planning
Strategy, on the other hand, is painting a picture of the future and developing a path to get there. Think of John F. Kennedy’s proclamation of a moon landing in 10 years, when at that time, the country wasn’t even close to accomplishing such a monumental task. Think of truly visionary leaders who join an organization and develop that vision of the future; they quickly nurture intracompany, as well as externally focused, relationships to recruit top-notch talent, fuel the vision and the mission with the necessary resources, and execute a set of priorities to bridge the current state with that future state.
Relationship strategy works the same way. What does that future vision look like? A much bigger universe that encompasses existing relationships, as well as the ones you’ll need to anticipate and, in many cases, new ones you must create.