Creating Customer Partnerships

Last week, I asked you to walk in the shoes of your Customers for a minute — and closed by asking you four questions withred circle easy answers … but without helping you get to those answers. This week, I will close the loop by helping you lead in a way that creates closer, stronger relationships between your team and your Customers (whether they are internal or external).

What we are really talking about is moving from having Customers to creating partnerships. Here are four ways to move in that important (and profitable) direction.

Draw Your Circle Differently. The work required to create Customer Partnerships (or move in that direction) starts between your ears. You have to think about the Customer as something (far) more than a transaction. When you draw your circle to include them on the inside of your business, it starts to change how you think. And the actions and work required to make it happen can’t happen without this change of perspective. Get this perspective for yourself and make it an expectation for your team as well.

Help Customers Draw the Circle Differently. You have to change your mindset, and you must change the mindset of your Customer as well. (That is one reason I wrote last week’s post the way I did — to help you see the benefits of this mind shift from the Customer’s perspective.) Realize two things — this might not be how your Customer sees the world at all, and you must help them, and not every Customer will see it this way, which helps you determine who to try to create this type of relationship with. (Note: You can move in this direction with all Customers philosophically, but, especially if you are working with external Customers, you likely can’t get there with everyone.)

Make it a Priority. Beyond convincing your Customer/Partners that this circle is possible and desirable, you have to influence your team as well. This means you must help them see the benefits to them and reinforce this approach to business over the long haul. Each day, each decision, each conversation needs to reflect a partnership approach to business. If this is important to your organization, it must become a daily focus issue.

Do The Work. The work involves a bunch of stuff. (If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.) Start with the items above, and then spend time studying, analyzing and talking to the Customer(s) you want to partner with. Make sure you know what they need, what they want and how you can add more value for them. Make this the work of the whole organization — to learn more, expect more and share the message of partnership with everyone in the Customer’s team. These efforts will work once the Customer sees the picture you see and when your whole team works toward that goal.

Remember that your Customers are people too. As human beings they want and need relationships. Our job in this case is to help them see that it is possible — and profitable — to find those relationships by partnering with us.

Remember this: Remarkable leaders know that when they build true partnerships with their best Customers, everybody wins.