Balancing Relationship Management And Stockholm Syndrome

crm_model (003)On the business side of your company lies what I have always felt were the most difficult functions to perform in corporate America, the role of Relationship Management. Your Relationship Managers (RM’s) have the unenviable task of keeping your clients happy in all phases of the relationship. This includes dealing with escalated issues around support, operations, delivery, product, contracts and technology. Then they’re asked to understand your clients’ strategies so they can position and sell your products and services to them.

Tall order.

Additionally, the best RM’s must have a working facility with each of the functional areas of your company and an appreciation for business development as well.

Top Relationship Managers are known by everyone in your company and are often recognized by the client or clients they represent. However, there is a balancing act that needs to be performed by management to avoid a potential conflict of interest which can actually hurt your business.

Sometimes your Relationship Manager’s relationship with your clients can be too close. Popularized by the movie Dog Day Afternoon (Al Pacino 1975), the phenomenon Stockholm Syndrome, also called “capture bonding,” is a situation where hostages empathize with their captors. The syndrome can manifest itself to a point where the hostages become active participants in a crime themselves.

While an extreme example, I have witnessed plenty of circumstances where RM’s are so tight with their clients that they have difficulty keeping the perspective that they work for your company and provide a service to your client. This often surfaces when selling an upgrade or new product within your client base. Many times the conversations with an RM in preparation of a pricing proposal to a client, can be as challenging as the conversation with the client. You must balance the situation. If you don’t remain strong, by proxy you will effectively become subject to the very same syndrome yourself. It is an RM’s duty to manage their client and keep their client’s best interest in mind while successfully navigating your company’s strategic goals.

So how do you manage this balance?

The best way to balance influence around pricing is to adhere to a true value methodology. Value, supported by data and a strong business case, are powerful tools at leveling the playing field and avoiding the negative effects that too much RM influence can have. Value pricing is driven by structured data-based elements that add up to a repeatable and defendable number. If you are selling software in an unstructured, decentralized way with little control over pricing, you are at a disadvantage, where an overzealous customer advocate can end up competing with you to reduce your price.

In future posts, I will explore more situations where you should be on-guard with the people who hold your most prized assets, your customers. Again, these are amongst the most difficult jobs to hold and are even more challenging to in which to excel. Like keeping your clients, keeping your high performing RM’s should be near the top of senior management’s priority list.

By Christian J. Farber. As Chief Marketing Officer, Christian Farber is responsible for overseeing our entire client experience from first contact through sale and ongoing client support. Mr. Farber unifies market insights and product strategy, with the goal of delivering financial technology solutions that anticipate and meet evolving market needs.

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