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Growing to a partnership with the customer after proposal agreement

When a proposal is approved, this does not mean that one has done the most. On the contrary, there is work to be done and not only in terms of the order. The discussions and the proposal may have laid the foundations for a good and long cooperation, but expectations still need to be met. What activities, beyond the execution of the order or order, strengthen the link with the (new) customer? What ensures that the relationship of supplier gradually passes into that of advisor or partner?

Everything that gets attention grows
(Aristotle)

Signed proposal? Get to work!

The essence of the proposal 'everything that one gives attention grows, 'is that time and energy make growth possible. Therefore, invest in new and existing customers. Sincere attention to customers strengthens the relationship. However, growing to a preferred supplier or a role as advisor and/or partner is a long process. A process that does not stop at a proposal agreement, after completing an order or delivering an order. It is a continuous process with several stages:

  • Sales Conversation
  • Proposal
  • Outturn
  • Evaluation
  • Management

Find out customer expectations during the sales call

Anyone who asks the right questions directly in the initial phase (the sales interview) and listens carefully to the customer, immediately has a wealth of information; from the preference for the way of communicating to, for example, an anniversary or birthday. The right questions also lead to more clarity about the customer's expectations.

Process expectations in the proposal

The offer is an excellent opportunity to meet or even exceed the expectations of the customer. This confirms that there has been a good listen and shows commitment to execute the order or order properly and in line with what has been discussed. Once the proposal is sent, the follow-up is crucial. Should a customer not hear any more, this could be regarded as disinterest or lack of commitment at this stage. Reconcelling proposals is a first step, giving the customer more confidence. During the afternotation, there is an opportunity to answer questions and remove any doubts or objections. It is important to give the customer some space at this stage. Possibly makes a new appointment for an extra presentation or demonstration.

Strengthen the relationship during execution

Become a partner or preferred supplier of a customer requires more than just providing products and services. Just think of consistent communication and showing interest and appreciation. The thanking for the assignment or order is often underestimated. However, a thank you or a personal message can have a huge impact on the relationship with the customer. Appreciation is, in addition to trust, one of the most important factors contributing to a good relationship. The simplest and most surprising way to thank a customer is through a handwritten card. A small attention, personal email or a social media listing, these are all possibilities with which the connection with the customer is confirmed. Continue to stay in regular contact with the customer during execution or delivery and keep him well informed about the status of an order or order. As a result, the customer experiences control and the concept of collaboration is strengthened.

Evaluate with the customer

For any company or organization, it is important to get customer feedback. It provides insight into the extent to which customers value the relationship with a supplier, what they think of the method, contact moments and processes. A personal conversation is preferable here. A conversation has more depth than a questionnaire. One comes to the core quicker and in this way any new needs or dissatisfaction can be found out. Dissatisfaction is rarely reported immediately. Several studies indicated that when customers are not satisfied, only 60% discuss this directly with the supplier. As many as 80% will now be taken elsewhere without informing the supplier. In that respect, an evaluation is an opportunity to proactively solve possible problems or concerns and retain the customer. Was everything to your liking? Please thank the customer again and mention when they are contacted again.

Relationship Management

Managing and maintaining the customer relationship is process in itself. Although the focus is often on acquisition, existing customers usually provide the largest revenue. With relationship management, one stays top-of-mind with the customer. In this phase the relationship is further developed. Regular contact provides insight into the developments of a customer. These developments may give rise to a new conversation with each other, new assignments or orders. If we want to give relationship management or relationship management as efficiently as possible, CRM software offers a solution. Through relationship management software knowledge is collected and reports are generated from which new (strategic) actions can emerge.

Lastly

Properly executed orders or orders, with consistent, sincere attention, ensure that the role of supplier gradually passes into that of advisor and sparring partner. Characteristic of this phase is that both customer and supplier talk to each other more often in the 'we form'.

Tip: investigate which customer is in which phase, assess which activities are appropriate and, if necessary, adjust the sales process accordingly.

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