If you aren’t familiar with the concept of relationship capital let me start with a brief definition. I think of relationship capital as the “interest” you accrue when you prove your credibility, reliability, and authenticity to other people. When you do this repeatedly, you create value and build trust.

Not long ago a loyal and satisfied customer reminded me to spend that capital.

Our team had done terrific work for their company over several years.  The sales organization provided innovative solutions, the operations team had delivered consistently, and the nature of the relationship was solid and healthy.

Normally, I would have been ecstatic to hear the glowing reviews of our performance and the value we brought to this customer.  And I was, until they challenged us.  Paraphrasing a bit for the sake of brevity, the essential points were these:

  • You show us tremendous value [good]
  • Where you are well known in our company you do well… but you are missing opportunities where you aren’t well known [good coaching]
  • We believe you can make a bigger impact but we need you to expand the scope of how you help us and even if that work isn’t perfect, we know you will make things right [amazing]
  • Be more aggressive [good coaching]

What the customer had just done was given us a lesson in spending relationship capital.  Growing relationship capital and not using it is like making deposits into a retirement fund and never enjoying it.  The more I thought about this feedback, the more I realized that the lesson wasn’t about “spending” relationship capital, the lesson was to “re-invest” the capital.

The pivot point is that we make investments in product innovation, systems, people, and [yes] relationships to benefit both ourselves and our customers.  Reap the rewards of those investments!

Interested in your thoughts and perspectives!

  • What if the customer hadn’t said anything? 
  • How could we have opened the door to this conversation ourselves? 
  • And at what point in the relationship should we have done so?  
Re-Investing Relationship Capital
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