Every executive, director, manager and minion is tasked with developing increasing levels of intimacy in right service relationships. Intimacy? Yes. A satisfied customer can become a delighted customer. A satisfied customer can become a dissatisfied customer. An emotionally distant and dissatisfied customer is on the way to another shop. A customer, who is an intimate associate, will stay with you and work through dissatisfaction. So how do you move customers from fringe relationships to intimate foundational associates?
Like all common grounds notes, this one came from a client. His particular struggle was intimacy with clients. That is a tough subject. Most of us like to separate our business relationships into a compartment of mistrust. “Caveat vendor” and “Caveat emptor” pervade. Getting to a trusted win-win relationship confidence assumption requires exposure and intimacy and increasing levels of personal revelation. Sound risky? It is. Risk brings reward.
A good friend in the business took me into his back office and showed me a project recently that is a highly competitive move for him. He exposed himself. He knows I also work with his competitors. Trust means I can do a better job helping him as I understand his needs and focus. Trust means no one knows but me what I saw.
With one client, when I took an antagonistic department head into the inner workflow of the shop, I was frozen with fear. Surely they would tear the client apart in front of some executive over a small disagreement of approach. On the contrary, they reciprocated and let me into their workflow. We built a cooperative system of workflow that ended up in our locking shop and customer into a 100% provider relationship.
Another client took me into their private conference room with a group of key decision makers. This was a culturally and politically tense situation. Without trust and intimacy this discussion would be over before we started. The executive could lose a lot of face if I did not relate to each person in the group well. She was staking business strategy for the next three years on this discussion. The pressure was on. In a few minutes one of the key stakeholders and I discovered a common interest in the field we were discussing and the group took off into a vibrant and open discussion.
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” Stephen M.R. Covey, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything
Developing successful relationships from fringe to friend to familiar to faithful to forever is a principle I work to instill in every organization. The Road to Human Loyalty It applies to staff relationships and customer relationships and community relationships. There are a few “caveats” in this path and you need to take time to understand them, but they are deeper than starting out with a lack of trust.
So as you work on your plans for the next 18 months and consider your customer relationships here are a few tips. Sure you will meet some disappointments when you apply them. However, you will find you gain much more than you lose.
- Take time to listen deeply and unplug the filters of prior expectation.
- Be slow to judge motivations for the heart is a complicated web.
- Give yourself 20 seconds to consider and weigh before you respond to any situation.
- Reaction to medicine will kill you. Response will heal you. Choose response.
- The space between stimulus and response is filled by choice.
- Believe in your customer.
- Believe in yourself.
- Think of ten good actions you could take in response to a request before making a decision when feeling like you are being used.
- If you consider all your relationships as well, think again and be realistic.
- Do the thing you fear the most, give trust.
COMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.
This article focuses on Sales and Marketing level of the operational pyramid.