Perception is reality. So what do your clients really think of you? Would you be happy with how they perceive you? Are they thinking any of the following when they think about you and your company?:

  1. ‘I’m so glad I’ve met you; my life/business is better off for knowing you.’
  2. ‘Oh that guy (gal), yeh they’re pretty good’
  3. ‘They’re nice but I don’t always have the time to chat with them’
  4. ‘That arrogant so and so’
  5. ‘Aghhh, I don’t trust them, get them out of my office now’
  6. ‘Who?’

Good relationships take time and effort to build and create something really valuable and viable. To the client, having a relationship with a Salesperson, Business Development Manager or Account Manager, who sells to them and manages their account means very little unless they perceive that we actually bring real value to them and the business relationship.

We’ve spoken before about the meaning of Value. Our real mission, as sales professionals is to find out what Value means to each of our clients and in turn have them find Value in us, our team, our products/services and the company that we represent.

However, as much as we would like to have a great relationship with all of our clients we do not seem to be able to achieve this with all of them. It’s a bit like our friendship groups: some are our closest or best friends and we love to spend time with while others are acquaintances whom we see occasionally and do not value as much as we do our best friends. Often this is because we do not know them well enough to be our best friends or we don’t have the time or inclination to progress it any further.

Do you ever get the feeling that your client relationships get stuck in a rut or stall or that they do not value you as much as you value them? We often say ‘If only they could see what we can really do for them, things would be different.’

How you are perceived by your clients is critical to your success with them. If you do not like how you are currently being perceived by your clients there are things you can do to change their perception of you.
The following table aligns customer perceptions to you, your product/service with the expected behaviours you are likely to see from them. It then offers tips about what to do to shift the perception to a better place.

Perception of relationship Client behaviour How to shift client perceptions up ladder
Commodity Sees your offering as a commodity; same as the competitors; they show no loyalty and have high price sensitivity; constantly asking for cheaper prices.

Make sure you differentiate your offering from competitors by presenting your competitive edge; highlighting relevant product/service benefits and demonstrate value beyond product.

Product/service provision Sees more value in what you offer however still looks around at offers from other providers. They have low or some loyalty but still have high price sensitivity. High price sensitivity Enhance customer experience by being a problem solver using your knowledge and experience
Value-add Loyalty is growing; likely to call you in if looking at new deals but may still have you go up against competitors on new deals.  Less price sensitivity and looking more at total cost of ownership. Understand real customer needs and priorities and create more value by being a problem preventer, not just a problem solver.
Partner There is high loyalty to you and your company; you are called on for advice and guidance and they see your offering as adding real value. There is lower price sensitivity and much more emphasis placed on real value and total cost of ownership. Offer a full management partner process.


As clients, we all like to buy from someone whom we trust, both the individual and the company they represent. The other day our team at Barrett was discussing how our clients perceive us and what they really like about us (based on their feedback and testimonials) and the overwhelming theme was that they really valued our straight talking, no BS, tell-it-like-it-is approach, our ability to demystify things and our ability to map a pathway forward to success and appropriately equip them and their teams for the journey ahead. That doesn’t happen by accident. We have to earn the reputation.

There are a number of things you can do

There are a number of things you can do

There are a number of things we can do that will help engender that trust and build highly effective client relationships based on real value:

  • Be open and honest in all communications
  • Keep the customer informed of processes, knowledge, market information, new products and ideas, etc.
  • Be interested in their business
  • Be a real professional and help them define what ‘Success’ will look like
  • Create and offer a planned approach for change
  • Use your business acumen & commercial awareness to offer ideas and make good decisions
  • think about possibility and help realise real results
  • above all be consistent – consistently good.


Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett,

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