Many years ago, I had occasion to read an account director’s annual review of her largest account. There were the usual ups and downs, of course. But overall, she said, the relationship was solid. After all, she’d been working on the account for more than 20 years. She regularly had dinner with the CEO. She was on a first-name basis with just about everyone. She knew more about the client than the client knew itself.

The reason I was reading the file, of course, was because the account director was gone. Not long after she’d written the review, some dispute had arisen. By the time the dust settled, the client had literally banned her from the building. Which, inevitably, led to her being fired.

Afterwards, the client said they’d been unhappy with the account director for a long, long time. But they didn’t like confrontation. So they’d never come out and told the account director she was in trouble — until the very end. Instead, they said, they’d “dropped hints.”

That was a real wakeup call for me. It’s so easy to fool yourself into thinking your customer relationships are better than they are. Because the account director needed the relationship to be strong, she convinced herself it was. I’ve seen it happen over and over.

So when Ed Wallace of the Relational Capital Group brought us the idea of a relational checklist – a no-fooling tool that helps you see where you stand with buyers – we knew he was on to something big.

The tool is simple to use (you don’t have to send any of those awkward and annoying “How are we doing?” surveys to your buyers), yet it will keep you honest with yourself – and allow you to catch and fix any problems early, while there’s still time to turn things around.

The relational checklist consists of questions from three categories:

  • Credibility includes questions about your degree of believability with the client. Credibility is the most basic of all relational qualities – the one upon which all relationships are built
  • Integrity is simply being trustworthy in your actions and character; saying what you are going to do and doing it, and having honest and truthful motivations for our actions
  • Authenticity is about being honest with yourself regarding who you are and what you know. It’s the basic quality of being genuine. It includes being brave enough to be totally honest with your clients, especially when you don’t have all the answers

By asking questions centered around these three aspects, you may learn some painful truths about your buyer relationships – but we’re not worried. You’re tough. You’re in sales. You’ll take care of it.

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