As salespeople, we all want to endear ourselves to our customers by gaining and maintaining the best possible relationships. You may be aware that there are four different relationship levels you can occupy as the provider of whatever you sell. Today let’s take a cursory look at these four positions, and learn what it takes to climb the pyramid in the graphic below.

According to a survey by Gallup, Inc., “Companies that successfully engage their B2B customers realize 63% lower customer attrition, 55% higher share of wallet, and 50% higher productivity.”

Pyramid of Provider RelationshipsVendor – This person is commonly referred to as “quote maker and order taker.”

  • They tend to be reactive, waiting for a phone call or email telling them it’s time to get involved.
  • Vendors are commodity providers, engaging only when a customer is ready to compare services and products.
  • It’s easy to be comfortable as a vendor, especially if that relationship is long term and the results provided are acceptable. But as companies continually raise the bar and become more aggressive in their marketplaces, more is expected from suppliers, so vendors really need to work to ‘up their game.’
  • To become more essential to customers, work more collaboratively with them, suggesting solutions to problems and attempting to add value wherever possible to their enterprise.

Credible Source – This individual tends to be a reliable supplier who is meeting expectations and is counted on to provide customers what they want.

  • These folks typically deal with purchasing management at the status level of “approved supplier.” Once a solution is implemented they typically exit the process.
  • In order to become more integral and expand their role, a CS can ask more and better questions to help them better understand the current state of affairs and the future desired state of their customer’s business.They can go deeper by brainstorming with their customers for causes and effects.

Problem Solver – A PS does all the above along with developing a deeper and more rewarding relationship with the customer. PS’s enter the process just before initiation of a project and do not exit the process until after results are measured, making them a valuable asset to customers.

  • This deeper relationship is achieved primarily due to being more knowledgeable of the customer’s industry than other counterparts in the supply chain, leading to increased visibility among higher management.
  • This expanded role may position the PS to even have opportunity to help write the RFP, allowing him/her to guide that process, creating mutual value for both parties.

Trusted AdvisorTrusted Advisor – This rare breed functions similar to a consultant, confidentially exploring needs and direction. This counselor doesn’t enter or exit the process, but is rather a part of the circle constantly working with the customer to identify issues, assess problems, and help create solutions.  

  • There are really no written steps to TA achievement. Similar to the motto of most law enforcement agencies, TA’s must continually “protect and serve.” For how long? Your customer will let you know.

—————————-Want to become a TA? —————–

As you strive to ascend the relationship hierarchy of your customers, you must know that you will need a toolbox full of sharpened instruments to help you get the job done. You will find those tools here.


©2015 Robinson Training Solutions, LLC