There is something called the Strategic Relationship Bowtie Effect. As a team, when we first begin to identify and nurture a relationship, we’re typically the focal point to the other side—think of the customer’s company, where you’ve called on a single point of contact (Figure 3.4).

As you develop and nurture multiple relationships within that customer account, it’s critical to align those multitudes of relationships with counterparts in your organization. In essence, reversing the bowtie to create a relationship shoestring model (Figure 3.5).

The following questions can help you achieve this relationship model:

  • How would you rate the diversity of the business relationships between the two firms?
  • What are your account protections and relationship development plans for the coming year? Others are surely competing for the perceived value that you provide; do you know who they are and your unique position? How can you continue to build a barrier to entry by others? In what specific manner can you continue to bring innovative ideas and products to minimize their needs or wants to explore other options or relationships?
  • Has this client referred you to other relationships? Do you know why or why not?
  • Are the results from your relationships with this client producing a positive trend in your business, as evidenced by increased profitability from work with this client? If it’s an internal relationship, is the quality of your interactions increasing? Are you being perceived or described as the go-to person? Why and how or why not?
  • Asked independently, how would this client describe your relationship as well as overall reputation?
  • How battle tested is your relationship with this client? Remember, relationships and trust in particular can take years to develop and only single incidents to dilute or destroy. How solid is your levy against rising waters of missed commitments, and could it survive a Katrina-sized incident of poor contingency planning, lack of communication, the blame game, and a disaster of unparalleled financial or reputational outcomes?

Don’t settle for single-threaded relationship building. Do whatever it takes to create the shoestring relationship model and extend the effectiveness of your strategic relationships.

How well do a group of individuals work well together in a team-based environment? Take our Free Relationship DNA assessment to identify the team attributes in one of four quadrants with a high level profile and a set of recommendations.

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