"This business is built on relationships." Is relying on existing business relationships strong enough to build a business plan around?
I have been selling and developing business in the Oil and Gas Industry for years. One of the constants that I have always heard is that "our industry was built on relationships". I don't disagree. My question is, does it work today?
Have you ever won a deal or project from a client after they had been loyal to your competitor for years? Why didn't that relationship work out for them?
I agree that relationships are important. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in this life more important than relationships.
My question is.... is an existing relationship strong enough to be the foundation for your sales plan?
I have been on both sides of the table. I have attempted to hire top talent away from a competitor, and I have lost top talent to the other guys. On both sides of that coin, I have seen things unfold much differently than expected. Sometimes you think your customers are loyal, then they're not, and you can't blame them for you changing jobs!
The most relevant hurdle that relationship selling faces today, is attrition. The energy price crash and COVID-19 has changed the rules and the game. If continued business for an account is reliant on a relationship, then you're a pink slip away from losing that account. (Do they still give out pink slips? I think it's just an exit interview, grab your plant, thank you for your service, and BYE BYE!)
Think of it this way.... You've been selling to this dude/dudette for 20 years. The account is great. You can always count on this business. Month after month, it's on auto pilot. Then they promote your dude, and bring a dudette from the competitor. She super sharp. She's been in the industry for a long time, AND SHE IS COUSINS WITH YOUR COMPETITOR! She comes in and says "We appreciate your service and I am not changing anything!" You feel great and call your dude. "Man, I'm really gonna like working with the new dudette, she said she's not changing anything". Then.... well.... you can write the rest of the story.
The bottom line ....
Yes, the oil and gas industry was built on relationships, but it runs on margin. Relationships are valuable, but you better get really good at building NEW ones, and spend less time relying on old ones. That's IF you want to survive in the "new normal".
Go. Go often. Go early.