Mind the Gap: When Buyer and Seller Perceptions Don't Match Up

Mind the Gap: When Buyer and Seller Perceptions Don't Match Up

Guest Bio

Tom Cates

Tom Cates is founder, chief client officer and chief storyteller of salesEQUITY, a client engagement platform that empowers B2B client teams to measure, analyze and act on gaps in client perception to drive organic growth.

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How well do you know your high-value clients? According to your sales and account management teams, the relationships are going well and your clients would say the same.

Our cross-industry research of more than 6,000 client relationships tells a very different story.

The reality is that 86 percent of sales and account services teams have significant gaps in their understanding of client satisfaction – and they are likely costing you growth and profitability.

The positive side to this lack of knowledge is that more often than not, opportunities exist to upsell or cross-sell within an undervalued relationship or to retain a client by uncovering blind spots in an overvalued one. For companies in high-value, competitive, mature markets like the payments industry, organic growth has become increasingly elusive and 'minding the gap' between buyer and seller is a critical component to success.

Measuring the gap

Before you can mind said gap, you first have to measure it. This is a two-step process.

First, you ask the client how they honestly perceive their one-to-one relationship with their seller. Does the sales or account person understand both their own business, and the one they’re selling to? Are they easy to work and get along with?

The second step is to ask how the seller perceives the current health of the relationship. What do they think the client would say about them? Does the client use words like 'fine' (blah) or 'fantastic' (the goal) in correspondences?

We've found there's almost always a gap between how each side perceives their one-to-one relationships. What's more, the best sellers — who we call 'Trusted Advisors' — consistently underestimate the value of their client relationships by more than 35 percent. On the other hand, client teams overseeing 'transactional' relationships tend to overestimate the health of their client accounts.

Analyzing the gap

With gap analysis, there are four spots where you, the seller and your client could land. We've illustrated these scenarios and what they mean for the future of a buyer/seller relationship:

The Reality of Our Clients Today

  1. Top Left: Agreed Strengths – An 'agreed strength' is when the seller thinks they're doing a great job and the client agrees. The mutual agreement empowers the seller to continue providing value and ensuring their client needs are met.

  2. Bottom Left: Agreed Weaknesses – An 'agreed weakness' is when the buyer and seller agree on the weaknesses in the relationship. This may sound negative, but it actually presents an opportunity for both parties to identify and act on room for improvement.

  3. Top Right: Advantages – The third scenario is an 'advantage,' where the buyer identifies more positives in the relationship than the seller. This scenario helps bring the seller’s attention to his or her strengths and illuminates opportunities to upsell or cross-sell the client.

  4. Bottom Right: Blind spots – Finally, a 'blind spot' is when the buyer perceives more issues in the relationship than the seller. This scenario is a sign that the client may be shopping for another vendor and could be an opportunity to remedy the failing relationship — before it's too late.

Closing the gap

Just like simply wearing a Fitbit will not make you healthier, measuring alone will not drive retention and organic growth for your business. For that, you need a personal trainer — a coach. Coaching behavior change for client teams is vital in helping individual sales and account managers close gaps in their client relationships.

Of course, the hard part is the execution. It can be difficult to 'do' integrity, competency or relationship chemistry on a daily basis. Remember, these are perceptions and not something on which you can take immediate action. Practices or behaviors, however, like the act of writing things down or helping a client sell an idea internally, are shockingly simple and have profound, positive effects on your clients' perception of your integrity.

To 'mind the gap' in client relationships, companies must measure, analyze and act on places where seller and buyer perception don't match up. By bringing gaps to the forefront, companies can reduce attrition, expand their current client relationships and train their salespeople more effectively to drive maximum organic growth — no matter the market.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

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Tom Cates

Tom Cates is founder, chief client officer and chief storyteller of salesEQUITY, a client engagement platform that empowers B2B client teams to measure, analyze and act on gaps in client perception to drive organic growth. Tom has more than 15 years of experience leading consulting engagements focused on the client-facing elements of sales, marketing and client service functions in a wide variety of industries. Follow him @salesEQUITY and on LinkedIn.

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