Years ago, when quoting a home theater project (one of my favorite rooms because of what we could accomplish in such a small space), the client turned to me and said, “We are entering into a marriage.” Had he not been more than twice my age I may have been more offended. Looking back now, however, I realize that he was right, at least metaphorically. You do enter into a marriage-like relationship with your clients and vendors when you complete a large project together.
I buy from manufacturers representatives that I like. I sell brands that I can stand behind. I enjoy selling to customers that communicate well and act as partners working toward the agreed-upon solutions.
The relationship to me is crucial.
Recently I have been wondering if my desire for this type of business relationship has something to do with my gender. Do I crave this connection because it is tied to some maternal instinct in some primal way? Not according to Forbes, which recently published an article on the subject. “Relationships with external partners (vendors, consultants, advisors, non-profit organizations, etc.) can either make you stronger and wiser about your future, or they can weaken you and blind you to the opportunities perhaps right in front of you.”
BizJournal had this to say about business relationships: “Truth be told, it’s the foundation for success, be it in sales, leadership, or just getting along with co-workers and doing your job.”
Last year at CEDIA Business Xchange, under the blazing Houston, TX, sun I met a rep from ADI. In casual conversation, he told me of a program called AV Elite that paid for your CEDIA membership if you met certain sales goals with his distribution company. After I pointed out that our growth had been in the commercial market, and that cash flow had become a pain point for us, he explained that ADI can hold an order until it is complete, giving integrators more time before they must pay. Guess what? We became AV Elite by end of year, and it is one of our most valuable relationships that we’ve formed. BUT, that business arrangement only works because I also have fostered a partnership with my local branch.
Maybe I am not “girly” after all. Maybe, just maybe, I am on the right path. If that is the case, then here are a few things that I recommend you ask yourself when forming these bonds:
1) Do they understand who you are?
This pertains to both clients and vendors. Customers need to know what they should and should not expect from you. For instance, if their computer does not turn on, this has nothing to do with the new WAP you put in. Vendors need to understand so they can find the right solutions for you and not just push product.
2) Do they understand who you want to be?
Being honest with who you are as a company and where you want to go is the first step in the process. Once you know this answer, your clients may be able to help you get there. Your vendors may be able to find new opportunities for you. Your employees also need to know what direction the company is heading in, so they can grow along with you.
3) Do you trust them?
Like in marriage, trust in a relationship is fundamental. If I did not trust my local ADI branch, I would have to withhold information that could be critical in building the right solution. If you do not trust your clients to pay their bill, do not bring over the new 4K projector. If you find you cannot leave employees alone at the store or are concerned when they are at a high-end client’s house, then these are not the right people for you. Trust is essential.
You are at work more than you do anything else — more than 90,000 hours during your lifetime — why not foster relationships with your vendors, clients, and employees to create a happy (and profitable) environment?
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.” –Ralph Nichols (long-time professor of rhetoric at the University of Minnesota)