Invest in relationships. That sounds like a good idea when you say it that way, doesn’t it.
Typically when sales people say that their company needs to invest in relationships they’re intimating that their company should spend money serving a client or prospect without billing them.
Sometimes investing in a relationship means providing a level of support that is above and beyond what is customary. It might also mean providing goods, services, or a solution without being paid for having provided them. But that’s not investing.
It’s Something Less Than Investing
Providing services you don’t bill for is discounting. And much of the time it’s discounting the future value that you can create.
If offering a higher level support is worth having, if it differentiates the experience and creates value, it’s worth paying for. Once you “make an investment” by providing the service, regardless of how valuable it is, it is no longer worth paying for; it’s an expectation. Now, what you delivered is built into your price whether you like it or not.
If you are providing goods, services, solutions, or manpower that you would customarily charge for at no cost, you are discounting. And like the examples above, you are setting a precedent that this will be built into your existing price.
You may want to tell yourself that you’re making an investment in the relationship. You may even convince yourself that the investment in the relationship is necessary. But it’s not investing in a relationship. The real investment you need to make is different.
The Real Investment You Need to Make
The real investment you need to make in relationships is the investment of your time and energy. You need to invest your insight and ideas and apply those ideas in a way that moves your client’s business forward. You need invest in building consensus around your solution. You are (in part, anyway) the investment your company is making in your dream client (or you should be).
Discounting is discounting. It lowers the perception of value. Don’t pretend it’s investing.