Very often in our day to day consultation with clients the question arises about what their respective customers are thinking and what they want.Inevitably they say something like, “Our customers are zigging when we’re zagging, it’s hard to be on the same page, and I wish they would just tell us what they want!"
There is a widely held notion that as a vendor you must out think your customers and somehow keep two steps ahead of them. Vendors engage in all kinds of strategies and tactics to address this supposition. The strategies and tactics are often devised by the senior management team behind closed doors.
The clandestine strategizing takes on a “cloak and dagger” approach pitting them (customer) against us (vendor) mentality. The exercise seems like a chess match with moves and counter moves, a game of wits!
Where’s Sherlock Holmes when you need him?
In reality true business partnerships or for that matter any human relationship is forge on a foundation of a mutual and understood agendas. Thus open communication about what impacts the relationship keep everyone on the same page.
The answer to the question, where are they going and what they want, is simply to ask them!
Asking the customer in a straight forward manner without subterfuge or masked nuances, something like:
” We have been doing business together for the past 3 years and it appears from all indications things are going very well, we are very interested in expanding our business and relationship, how would we do that”?
“During a senior management team meeting the other day your company came up in the discussion because your business represents a significant part of our portfolio. The team wanted to ensure that we were on the same page with you regarding your future direction and needs. Could you help me understand our relationship and the future as you see it”?
Research demonstrates that when a straight forward request for help is expressed in a sincere manner in the vast majority of the cases (85 %) the person will respond in kind.
This means a question put forth with respect and sincerity is most likely to be followed by a straight forward and sincere response. This then is the foundation of subsequent conversations based on open communication.
Not to imply the whole world and everybody in it is reasonable and straight forward, it does imply hedging our behavior with the best odds, thus when in doubts ask!
NABC has a very specific process to engage in meaningful partnership discussions with major customers called CAP (Customer Assessment Process). Contact Dave Neal at 480-229-7800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
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