To get the most out of your business relationships, you need to measure them and identify how to improve them, writes our business development expert.
In the GovCon market, where capabilities and competitive pricing are the fundamentals, the real differentiator lies in developing winning relationships. These are transparent dialogues, not just social interactions, marked by deep stakeholder collaboration and receptivity to advice.
However, as a consultant, I've seen many organizations try to forge deeper, more meaningful connections. Yet the reality is that most falter at turning these aspirations into a tangible edge over the competition.
Mastering the Relationship Matrix
To help organizations outmaneuver the competition and turn relationships into contract wins, I encourage them to focus on three activities:
- Strategic Influence Mapping: Map out the "players" in each account or opportunity, understand their roles throughout the procurement phases, and use this knowledge to forge relationships that matter and avoid the risky approach of relying on a single relationship to secure a contract win.
- Relationship Quality (RQ) Measurement: Implement metrics to assess how well you are positioned with your key "players" across the account or opportunity landscape.
- Contact Planning: Leverage RQ measurements to outline contact plans that nurture weak connections, deepen relationships, and leverage good relationships for intel gathering.
Winning is a Team Sport
Understanding the ROI and difference between social contacts and winning relationships is fundamental to long-term growth. Turning acquaintances into advocates requires a team approach, moving beyond transactional interactions where success comes from pushing their agenda and interests to pulling intelligence, understanding their needs, and ensuring customers feel heard and valued.
Training your team with the mindset and skills needed to develop winning relationships can often be the difference between a near miss and a resounding win.
Avoid Subjective Assumptions
People often think their relationships are stronger than they are, and sadly, many organizations don't have the right tools to objectively measure these relationships accurately. This leads to overconfidence, such as believing "the customer loves us," which is misleading and often results in an unexpected loss on contract award day."
The post-award debrief often reveals the true quality of the relationship. Often exposing instances where assumptions were spun and accepted as fact and uncovering the misalignments between our perceived understanding and the customer's actual needs.
Measure Relationship Quality: Move Beyond Assumptions
Measuring and managing relationship quality is essential for BD Leaders. Too often, they neglect this until after a bid is lost. This leaves them "flying blind" without clear insight into their team's engagement effectiveness. Is their newly hired colonel deepening connections or making social visits? Are diminishing intel returns from a seasoned program manager a sign of undetected customer dissatisfaction?
The bottom line
In the competitive GovCon landscape, winning relationships are the key to long-term growth and success. These relationships, built on trust, transparency, and deep stakeholder collaboration, go beyond social interactions and transform into powerful differentiators that drive contract wins.
Embrace data-driven approaches to objectively measure and manage relationship quality. This shift from speculative strategies to actionable insights empowers you to allocate resources effectively, nurture weak ties, strengthen existing relationships, and redirect capture resources toward opportunities in high-quality accounts.
Ultimately, in an industry where human connections hold immense value, cultivating winning relationships are not just a competitive advantage; it's a strategic imperative that paves the way for a robust and future-proof pipeline.
Nic Coppings has over 20 years of experience in Government markets and is a senior partner at the Hi-Q Group. Nic is an expert in leveraging human intelligence to enhance BD and capture processes. Nic empowers executives and their teams to elevate customer and stakeholder engagement through innovative training programs. Connect with Nic on LinkedIn for exclusive industry insights.