SWM seeks CRM for LTR
Reflections on the new business paradigm.
For the rest of the September 1999 issue of CRM magazine please click here
Can LTRs(long-term relationships) be good for business?

The advent of customer relationship management has been described as a paradigm shift. Dressed in old-business-world battlefield terminology to familiarize the concept, CRM entered wearing some comforting bellicose phrases: "A new weapon for competitive advantage," or "a tool leveraged to build market dominance," or even "a strategic necessity." But despite such old-world descriptions, the concept is evolutionary, and in addition to revenue, brings a positive new connotation to the business of selling.

Replacing previous sales approaches of persistence and insistence and the concomitant, shudder-inducing stereotype of the salesperson as pest, liar and opportunist, CRM provides the salesperson with a new opportunity and professional role. No longer a warrior at the gate, determined to batter down a prospect's resistance and then disappear after the sale, the salesperson is now a consultant-a knowledgeable adviser and confidant-to a client.

In other words, the salesperson is in a relationship. Not one as problematic as the Mars-Venus type, but one that is continuous and manageable. Relationships, once considered a feminine art, are changing the way business is conducted and described.

The Business of Bonding
Relationships define the modern sales process, and the fundamental building blocks of these relationships are the same in both the personal and business realms. Consider the components of this common ground:
The consultant-salesperson's task is to understand the business and customers of a client, who likewise needs to understand his own clients' businesses and customers. All parties are in the same position-everyone can relate to the other's needs. Empathy.

Then it is important to learn as much as possible about the client, to draw out information to use as a base of understanding and rapport.

This information must be considered important and meaningful to the continuation of the relationship, not simply for temporary use. Commitment.

Networking information-across the enterprise, with channel partners and with customers-is also paramount to the successful business relationship. Sharing.

The means of networking information is most effective when it is readily understood and accessible.

The salesperson, empathizing, communicating and intuitively sharing in this relationship, must also be able to respond to the rapidly changing situations and information driven by our fast-paced technologically evolving world. Flexibility.

Provided with modern tools that enable salespeople to simultaneously gather, share and update information, the salesperson can maintain optimum relationships with clients.

New Word Order
So, stripped of paramilitary terms, what is happening to business? Designed to maintain relationships, business processes have borrowed from a wealth of social wisdom to stay successful in a truly global world.

Technological connectivity has made the reality of relationships the key to modern commerce-in business, as in life, good relationship skills and the components that define them have become survival skills.

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