As you can imagine, I seldom get a call from an executive with a comment such as “come right over, our relationships are broken!” What I do get calls about are stagnate sales, failed product launches, dramatically reduced number or participation by members, or misaligned executive strategy with what or how the rest of the team is trying to execute.
I learned years ago that beyond what any of us do (products, services, roles, or realm of responsibilities), we’re fundamentally and unequivocally in the relationship business. So in the early interactions, I focus on three key goals:
- Establish Rapport – something very quantifiable about someone’s likability factor
- Convey Credibility – much more often through the questions you ask vs. what you share; I’ve also found this a lot easier when I’ve done my homework on the organization AND the individual
- Determine Next Steps – if the conversation has been positive and mutually valuable, there is typically a logical next step. You don’t have to force it; it develops naturally
In this exchange of information phase, my favorite types of relationships are those with executives who are tough, smart, and we genuinely put our heads together on the potential causes of a particular challenge or steps to capture an upside market opportunity. We gain mutual and conceptual agreements on objectives (the business outcomes of us working together), measures of our progress toward the desired set of objectives, and the value to the organization.
The next stage is a tough one for many, which is the proposal. This is where they see the investment they have to make to either address the challenge they face in their current inflection point, or the resources necessary to capture the upside gain they seek. This is where you should offer them value-based options, so they can determine which options to chose in working with you, vs. whether they should work with you at all.
I’ve heard from a couple of relationships recently that they’re struggling with a “budget,” which prompted me to share this tip with you. My response to them is very consistent: in my experience, budgets are seldom a financial issue; they’re often a priority issue. If in this process to identify, build and nurture our business relationship, I have:
- Been working with the true economic buyer (the individual who owns the challenge or will gain the most from the upside potential);
- Gained their conceptual agreement on our joint objectives, measures, and values (OMV);
- Confirmed that he or she has both the willingness and the ability to address it;
- Worked diligently to establish rapport, trust, and credibility – thus the foundation of a relationship, in every interaction;
- Established the environment for them to see our work together as the solution to their challenge or opportunity;
then the proposal and the financial investment is academic. Most executives have access to discretionary funds, can move buckets of people, time, and resources (including capital) around to achieve their desired results. On the other hand, IF we’re stuck at the budget discussion, often, I didn’t do a good job in one of the above and need to go back and address it.
Never forget, relationships are between individuals, not logos. Build the relationship first. Fortune favors the bold!
Make it a great week,
I’m involved in some great events coming up; if you’re in the area or in these industries, I hope you’ll make time to join us:
InfoComm 2013 – Tues, June 11 through Thurs, June 13 in Orlando (anyone in the corporate AV world)
IBM SmarterCommerce Summit – Tues, June 18 through Thurs, June 20 in Monaco (focus is the customer journey)
National Assoc. of Wholesaler-Distributors, Assoc. Exec. Council (AEC) Summer Meeting – Tues, July 9 in Asheville, NC
Microsoft World Partner Conference – Thurs, July 11 in Houston, TX