Measuring Relationship Strength
B2B revenue leaders rely on making accurate and timely assessments of risk in many areas of the revenue pipeline. Sales forecasts need to be kept accurate and up-to-date. Deal reviews need to focus on the right deals and highlight the right challenges. Account management and customer success teams need to identify accounts at risk of churn and work to save them.
Each of these scenarios, and many more like them, relies on understanding who on your team knows who at the buyer, and, most importantly, how strong that relationship is. If your efforts to forecast aren’t informed by whether your sales person has a relationship with the decision-maker, the forecast will be inaccurate. If your deal reviews lack knowledge of who is deeply involved in the deal, the deal reviews will focus on administrative questions, not deal strategy.
What Is Relationship Strength?
Relationship strength is a concept that makes a lot of intuitive sense. We understand who we have a strong relationship with, who we have a weak relationship with, and who we have no relationship with at all. However, to measure it, we need to look a bit more deeply.
Relationships that are strong are relationships where a lot of communication, especially one-on-one conversations, is taking place now, and has taken place for a reasonable amount of time. To measure relationships, we need to look at a few key factors:
- How often do the two people interact?
- Are those interactions one-to-one, or part of a larger group thread?
- Are the interactions via Email? Phone calls or meetings? Social interactions?
- Are the interactions “balanced” – ie is there a two-way dialog or mostly one-way?
- How long has the relationship existed?
- How much as the relationship strength decayed over time if there’s been no interaction?
All of these factors are quite intuitive, but it quickly becomes clear that just logging activities in a CRM system like Salesforce will not give you this measurement of relationship strength.
How Can Relationship Strength Be Used?
Tracking relationship strength by itself is interesting, but unless it is used to drive business outcomes it won’t drive tremendous value for your business. To drive that value, it needs to be used as a core foundation of the key customer and prospect-facing processes that make your business successful.
- Deal Review: An objective measurement of relationship strength, and an understanding of who on your team knows who at the buyer, and how well, should be the starting point of any deal review.
- Sales Forecast: A calculation of relationship strength, and an understanding of who on the buying committee you have relationships with (by job level and functional job role) should inform any attempt to forecast the revenue to be seen from a sales pipeline.
- Account Management and Customer Success: Existing accounts should be carefully monitored to understand if your team has the right business relationships with both the front-line users of your service, and also the executive sponsors of your project, to ensure you are well positioned for renewal and any expansion opportunities.
- Past Customer Champions: Being able to understand who has a strong relationship with a past customer champion, and where that person has now taken a job is a crucial first step to leveraging past champions to access new business.
A foundation of any customer or prospect-facing efforts is relationship-building, so a measurement of relationship strength needs to be a foundation of any data effort to support customer or prospect-facing efforts.
Relationship Strength as a Critical CRM Data Point
In most B2B organizations, the CRM system, whether Salesforce or another system, is the central core of customer data. Too often, however, the “relationship” in Customer Relationship Management is missing. Modern revenut organizations, however, have installed relationship intelligence data platforms like Nudge to ensure that every contact within a CRM system has an accurate and up-to-date measurement of who on their team has what strength of relationship with that contact.
CRM systems are often used in a “hub” configuration to move data into other systems such as business intelligence and analytics systems, customer management platforms, deal scoring tools and revenue projection systems. With relationship strength populated and kept up-to-date in real-time, it becomes simple to also have relationship strength populate every customer and prospect-oriented data platform.
Businesses have known for years that any prospect or customer-facing effort ultimately comes down to relationships. However, it has not been possible, until now, to have the data that reflects those relationships available to the systems that model, manage, and predict it. Now, with relationship intelligence platforms like Nudge, it’s simple to have every system that thinks about customers or prospects, be kept aware of how strong your team’s relationships are with that person.