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It's About the Relationship

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By Gary Schick

As you work on expanding your business into new technology realms like cloud computing, don’t forget the importance of preserving and enhancing relationships with your current customers.

The customers you keep ...

In fact, the main driver for widening your technology reach should be the retention and expansion of business with the customers you already have.

This is easy to neglect; we all tend to focus on bringing in new customers. But don’t be fooled — retaining the customers you currently have is critical. Consider these statistics:

  • A mere 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75 percent, said Bain and Co.
  • No less than 80 percent of a company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of existing customers, reported the Gartner Group.
  • Attracting new customers costs five times more than keeping an existing one, according to Lee Resource Inc.

The partners you seek ...

So how do you proceed when you’ve brought aboard a new project from one of your customers that stretches beyond your current comfort zone into one of those realms, such as cloud computing, where you’ll need a partner’s help to deliver?

Step one involves choosing that partner. In my last post, I mentioned the importance of picking a partner willing to share a portion of the project’s ongoing revenue rather than just a one-time commission that represents little more than a finder’s fee for handing over your customer to a competitor.

For instance, you may be tempted to consider partnering with a carrier. Before you do, be sure to ask yourself: Can I trust them not to steal this customer? Am I introducing my competition?

… Depend on relationships built on trust and competence

You must also ensure that the partner you’ve selected can deliver what your customer requires, both now and in the future.

Which brings me to step two: managing the interaction of your partner and your customer. Much of this is about trust — and competence. Since you’re working to retain your relationship with your customer, you need to think about what that customer will need in the future as well as the present.

To that end, consider how the partner you introduce to your customer can help — say, with mid-contract opportunities. Is your partner good at listening to your customer? Good at connecting the technology dots between what your customer needs now and what that means about what they’ll need in a few months or next year?

Any way you cut it, both you and your customer will be stepping into a new relationship with your partner. Picking the right partner is essential both to your success and your customer’s.

Gary Schick is director of sales Quest , with direct responsibility for partner sales, growth and customer satisfaction. He brings more than 30 years technology sales, management and channel leadership experience to this role. Prior to joining Quest, Schick worked in sales and management positions at Netigy, Amerivox, Epson and Toshiba. He holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and is a member of the 2012-13 Channel Partners Advisory Board.

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